Nov 16 2010

Holiday Book Recommendations – 2010

Published by at 10:36 am under Books

It seems like each year I’m surprised at how quickly the holiday season has come upon us. (Is that a sign that I’m getting older?) I figured this is a good time to send out a reminder that books of sacred poetry make wonderful gifts (including gifts to yourself ;-).

Here are some special recommendations I’ve gathered together for you and your loved ones:

For the eclectic…

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… And the added bonus of Stephen Mitchell’s way with words. One of my personal favorites.


For the wise woman…..

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 von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.


For the Christian contemplative…

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
by Roger Housden

This has quickly become one of my favorite collections of sacred poetry within the many Christian traditions. John of the Cross, Merton, Hildegard von Bingen, Gibran, Dante, Meister Eckhart, Blake… and Roger Housden’s brief, thoughtful insights.

The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent
Translated by John Anthony McGuckin

This is the book that, years ago, introduced me to the stunning poetry of Symeon the New Theologian, igniting my passion for his visionary poetry of light and transformation. You’ll also find poems and poetic renditions of writings from many other saints and mystics of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Still a favorite of mine.

Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton

I can’t recommend this collection highly enough. Merton, in addition to being a deep mystic, was a truly excellent contemporary poet. His poems feel entirely modern, yet touch on the eternal. While drawing on Catholic imagery, one can hear whispers of Eastern philosophy and insight in his words. Poems to reread and meditate deeply upon.


A Sufi sampler…

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from the Sufi Wisdom
by Andrew Harvey / 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.


Illuminated and Illustrated…

The Illuminated Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Excerpts of Rumi’s poetry accompanied by digital collage artwork that draws you deeply into each page. This book entrances on several levels. An excellent gift book.

Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyan: A Spiritual Interpretation
by Omar Khayyam / Paramahansa Yogananda

A 20th century Indian Yogi commenting on the spiritual meaning of an 11th century Persian Sufi’s poetry. That combination yields both perfume and controversy — but plenty to contemplate. Lovely artwork and border scrollwork. And Fitzgerald’s delightful translation of this classic. Recommended.

Perfect Harmony: (Calligrapher’s Notebooks)
by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi

Brief selections from Ibn Arabi’s metaphysical love poem “The Interpreter of Desires” combined with the amazing Arabic calligraphy of Hassan Massoudy. If you didn’t think calligraphy could be fine art, you have to look at this book. Find a quiet place, open this book, and lose yourself in any page…


A little Zen in your pocket…

The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhalla Library)
Edited by Sam Hamill / Edited by 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.


For the contemplative activist…

Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Poetry by the beloved modern master Thich Nhat Hanh, exploring service and suffering, humanity and interbeing, breath and stillness, beauty and bliss.


Poetic keys to the journey…

Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
by Kim Rosen

What can I say? Read the first few pages and you won’t want to stop. An exploration of the power of poetry to open our lives in surprising, healing ways and, at the same time, an engaging personal memoir. Highly recommended.


For those early mornings…

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

You can’t go wrong with anything by Mary Oliver, but if you’re looking for a good introduction to her poetry, Why I Wake Early is a nice place to start. This collection is one to enjoy, one poem at a time, in those quiet moments before the busyness of the day starts.


And for blessings…

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
by John O’Donohue

I keep being told by people how much they love this book of poetic blessings from the Irish philosopher, poet, and mystic, John O’Donohue. These poetically crafted blessings and meditations on the passages of life manage to elevate the spirit, warm the heart, and, on occasion, bring a tear to the eye.


For even more excellent 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 darkness…

Diwali (early Nov)
Ramadan (Oct – Nov)
Birth of Bahaullah
Guru Nanak’s Birthday
Bodhi Day
Winter Solstice

… and may the new year bring you bright blessings!


8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Holiday Book Recommendations – 2010”

  1. Yewtreeon 16 Nov 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Dear Ivan, thank you for all the wonderful work you do with the Poetry Chaikhana – it is (and you are) such a blessing. I wish you a wonderful and blessed Yule, Solstice, Saturnalia, Sacaea, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, and the very best for the New Year.

  2. Rosemerry Trommeron 16 Nov 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Absolutely fantastic. What a wonderful gift you just gave us with this compilation … you are a great blessing, thank you.

  3. Constanceon 16 Nov 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Ahhhhhh ~~ Perfect !

    the content, the timing….perfect !

    Thank you, Ivan.

  4. martinaon 16 Nov 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Dear Ivan,
    Wonderful set of recommendations. I love the Jane Hirshfield book, and use it often. I also love the Coleman Barks book on Rumi. I will get John McGukin’s book, and Andrew Harvey’s book, based on your recommendations!
    For anyone who would like a longer story about spiritual matters to reflect on, I really loved the “Best American spiritual writings collections. I especially loved two of the stories in the book from 2007– I think, edited by Zaleski. one is about playing the clarinet over the years, with advancing arthritis, on the piece of music about the birds by the French composer Messaien, by a wonderful woman who grows as the piece of music grows on her. The other is about a guy climbing ice formations in Montana, and coming to think more deeply about risk and self-giving as he matures. I am sorry I can’t remember either name right now, and can’t find the book itself, either!
    Thanks so much.

  5. franon 16 Nov 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks, looks like a great list to choose from. I recently saw VISIONS about Hildgard Von Binger’s life, it was the first I had heard of her. I have been curious about her ever since. Maybe Women in charge of the Sacred is a good start. thanks again

  6. Aravindaon 17 Nov 2010 at 9:24 am

    Dear Ivan,

    I joined Poetry Chaikhana just a few days ago. I heard about it from a friend. The poems I receive daily from Poetry Chaikhana are so very beautiful. Thanks so much for them.

    Your message today is so full of warmth that it fills me with joy.



  7. simonbaghon 18 Nov 2010 at 3:46 am

    Hi Ivan,

    narrow-law woven net to capture wisdom
    just confine the strolling realm of freedom

    repetition of known imposes on fresh mind
    limits strength of generations to go behind

    teachings if get not wing from compassion
    squeeze one to frustrate the pure emotion

    simon baghdasarian

  8. sajidon 25 Nov 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Dear Ivan,

    I congratulate to your efforts, a man who work with sincerely that i think he will achieve gain in closed time.

    I pray for you that you work for the human being and write the poems for love of peoples.
    we should help one an others, it will be saying that “as you sow, so shall you reap”.



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