Dec 12 2008

Holiday Book Recommendations

Published by at 4:33 pm under Books

As we enter the holiday season, please remember that books of sacred poetry make wonderful gifts (including gifts to yourself ;-).

I’ve found that a collection of poetry by several poets makes an especially good introduction for people — a holiday sampler.

Here are a few of my favorite general collections of sacred poetry:

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell

This is a compact anthology, but a wonderful collection that includes Li Po, Wu-Men, Rumi, Kabir, Mirabai, Rilke… One of my personal favorites!

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield

This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lal Ded, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.

The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry, Translated by Peter Lamborn Wilson / Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady

One of my favorite collections of the Persian Sufi poets, some you m ay have heard of and others who may be new to you: Jami, Attar, Hamadani, Iraqi, Hafez, Ibn Arabi, Sanai, and many others. If you like Sufi poetry, this is a book you should have.

Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition, Translated by David Fideler and Sabrineh Fideler

Another very good collection of Persian Sufi poetry. This book focuses on poems and poets that are not as well known in the West. A very good place to discover some new names.

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom, Edited by Andrew Harvey and Eryk Hanut

Something about Andrew Harvey’s selections and translations always strike a pure note. This book is a delightful collection of poetry and Sufi wisdom stories. Rumi, Kabir, al-Hallaj, Shabistari, Ansari… This is one I return to again and again.

To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light, Translated by Willis Barnstone

Willis Barnstone’s translations balance the scholarly with the poetic — a real treat! This anthology ranges from Sappho and early Biblical utterances, to Wang Wei, Rilke, and St. John of the Cross. I like to leave through the pages until something catches my attention and I’m pleasantly lost in the page.

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library), Edited by Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton

A very nice sampler of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry. Han Shan, Li Po, Wang Wei, Basho, Soseki, Ryokan, Issa… The book fits well in your hand when you’re walking to the riverside or the local coffee shop.

The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, Edited by T. Carmi

The most complete collection I’ve found of sacred Hebrew poetry, including Judah ha Levi, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Samuel Hanagid, the early Hekhalot Hymns, and many more. My only complaint: the translations are not versified, even though the Hebrew originals were. Still, worth reading.

Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

This book became an immediate favorite of mine ever since I picked up a copy of it a couple of years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basavanna, Devara Dasimayya, Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended!

For even more book recommendations, click here.

May you and your loved ones have a special holiday season during this time when the sacred light renews itself in the midst of winter darkness. And may the new year bring you bright blessings!


4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Holiday Book Recommendations”

  1. Paulaon 12 Dec 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Ivan
    Thank you so much for the recomendations, they all are great books, but the Sufi poetry (Persian) is my favorite, when i have free time and free mind i read the things you have sent me some years ago about “The song of the birds” i just love them, they are relaxing.
    In this special season all i want is some peace around the world. Every time i watch TV i see wars and more wars, children dying every days, i pray for India and for all the countries in suffering because of the wars. I know that some time they are need, but it hurts so much see the inocent people, the poor every day even more poor and……..Enought of sad things.
    I wish you and you’res a Very Happy Season with peace!!!
    Thank you once again for the time you spend with us…

  2. Paulaon 12 Dec 2008 at 6:02 pm

    The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell………..

    I think this one is very good too….

  3. Safaon 13 Dec 2008 at 9:07 pm

    The love and radiance you share here, dear Ivan, is what we once shared back in our Hometown; rosy blessed reminders of that sacred Abode we are hopefully returning to join our Beloved….

  4. jon 25 Dec 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful sharing. I also enjoy
    Love Poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky

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