Nov 21 2011

Holiday Book Recommendations 2011

Published by at 10:19 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.


For the seeker with an inner song…..

Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Patrick Laude & Barry McDonald

This anthology of world sacred poetry has several nice selections from Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian traditions. And several beautiful Native American and African poems and songs. Not a big doorstop of a collection; it’s one you’ll actually read and enjoy… and perhaps hum to.


Sufi samplers to savor…

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.

Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
Translations by Mahmood Jamal

Not all translations in this book are my favorite, but the English renderings here have a direct, modern fluidity that is inviting to the tongue and the quieting mind. A good source for an introduction to many of the great Muslim poets.

Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
Translations by Jennifer Ferraro with Latif Bolat

How can you not like a collection with a title like this? Poems by Turkish Sufis, some you may have heard of, like Yunus Emre, other stunning works by names you may not know, such as Ummi Sinan, Kul Himmet, Seyh Ibrahim Efendi, and Niyazi Misri. I came across this book two years ago, and I keep returning to it.


Illuminated and Illustrated…

One Song: A New Illuminated Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

A follow-up to the excellent Illuminated Rumi — 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 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 —

— and may the new year bring you bright blessings!


4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Holiday Book Recommendations 2011”

  1. Erinon 21 Nov 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you for this great collection you gathered! It gives me all sorts of library scavenging to do this season.

  2. Rev Dr Susan Emeleuson 22 Nov 2011 at 2:34 am

    I am thrilled to have this big range of suggestions of poetry books. I recently attended the launch of a new Australian anthology and I highly recommend it. It is called “Together at the Edge Trust Me” by Noel Davis with beautiful artwork by Barbara Stuart, Published by Lifeflow Education, Narooma, NSW, Australia, 2011

  3. Celesteon 23 Nov 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for sharing this discerning and inspiring collection with us!

  4. Lilianeon 09 Dec 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for these recommendations, very helpful.

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