Dec 06 2009
I’ve been eager to mention this book on the Poetry Chaikhana since it was published at the beginning of November, but life has felt so full in recent months that I just haven’t gotten to it… until now.
|For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
by Roger Housden
For Lovers of God Everywhere has quickly become one of my favorite collections of sacred poetry within the many Christian traditions.
Surprisingly, I haven’t found many good collections of the poetry of Christian mystics, until this book. Certainly, there are many books focusing on the writings of individual poets and saints, but not much is available covering the many voices throughout the history of inspired Christian seeking. While this book is short, inviting one to open to any page at random, it still gives a nice flavor of many of the important Christian sacred poets: John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Hildegard von Bingen, Kahlil Gibran, Dante, Angelus Silesius, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Meister Eckhart, William Blake… and Roger Housden’s brief, thoughtful insights. Another excellent book by the editor of Ten Poems to Change Your Life, Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, and Ten Poems to Set You Free.
And I’m pleased to be able to point to some of my own work in this book, my translation of “The Sum of Perfection” by John of the Cross.
Excerpt from the book:
The Sum of Perfection
Creator only known,
Attention turned inward,
In love with the Beloved alone.
– Saint John of the Cross
(translation by Ivan M. Granger)
Love for John of the Cross is an interior condition of union, with no external object of reference in either the world or in the mind. All attachment to the things and thoughts of this world has fallen away. Imageless, wordless, there is nothing to say, nowhere to go and nothing to do when such a blessedness descends. This poem has all the brevity, clarity, and completeness of a Japanese haiku (though not the exact form of seventeen syllables in three lines) used by Zen practitioner-poets on the other side of the world to deliver their own pity wisdom. It’s chant-like quality is more apparent in the original Spanish:
Olvido de lo criado,
memoria del Criador,
atencion a lo interior
y estarse amando al Amado.