Mar 04 2008
Updated: December 11, 2018
I periodically get asked to recommend good collections of sacred poetry, especially around the holidays when people want to give gifts that inspire or touch loved ones in a deeper way. So I’ve decided to dedicate an entire page to recommended books. I hope you find some treasures here!
|This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)
Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger
A an inspiring collection of poems and wisdom stories from the world’s great sacred traditions. Rumi, St. John of the Cross, Lalla, Goethe, Hildegard von Bingen, Dogen, Khayyam, and many others gather together within these pages to sing their ecstatic songs. Each poem is accompanied by reflections and meditative commentaries, inviting us to explore the insights and private raptures of these mystics, seers, and saints-until we too are swept up in this dance of bliss!
(A Poetry Chaikhana publication)
|The The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)
Edited with Commentary by Ivan M. Granger
A delightful collection of soul-inspiring poems from the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, accompanied by Ivan M. Granger’s meditative thoughts and commentary. Rumi, Whitman, Issa, Teresa of Avila, Dickinson, Blake, Lalla, and many others. These are poems of seeking and awakening… and the longing in between.
(A Poetry Chaikhana publication)
|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.
|Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Patrick Laude / Edited by Barry McDonald
A shorter anthology of world sacred poetry with an emphasis on rhymed verse translations. Selections from Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian traditions. And several beautiful Native American and African poems and songs.
|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 leaf through the pages until something catches my attention and I’m pleasantly lost in the poem.
|The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures
Edited by Robert Bly
Another good, wide-ranging selection of sacred poetry gathered by Robert Bly. From Hafiz to Freidrich Holderlin, Mirabai to Mirza Ghalib, Rumi to Rilke. A very good book to pick up, open to a random page, and then disappear…
|The Winged Energy of Delight
Translated by Robert Bly
A very nice collection with a modern feel. Poetry ranges from Rilke, Antonio Machado, and Juan Ramon Jimenez, to Rumi, Hafez, Kabir, and Mirabai.
|News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness
Edited by Robert Bly
Another good collection of world poetry selected by Robert Bly. The collection feels a little scattered to me, but contains many treasures too.
|The Mystic In Love: A Treasury of Mystical Poetry
Edited by Shelley Gross
A collection originally published in the 1970s, and it does carry something of an outdated feel to it, but this is a charming collection, as well. Some of the translations are rather stiff, relying on awkward rhyming schemes, but others carry a real spark of life. Not much context for the poems or the poets, but it is a wide-ranging collection of sacred voices, with several poets you aren’t likely to find in other collections.
|Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty
Edited by Alan Jacobs
This is a treasure chest of world sacred poetry, especially in Western, Hindu, and Sufi traditions. I’ll admit that the translations aren’t always my favorite, and you won’t find biographical notes about the poets, but this book will introduce you to many new voices. Recommended for sheer scope and enthusiasm.
|The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions
Edited by Andrew Harvey
An excellent anthology from Andrew Harvey. Poetry and brief excerpts from sacred writings among many world traditions: primal cultures, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Ancient Greece, Christianity, and Islam. Open to any random page and you’ll find an uplifting verse, saying, explanation, or wisdom story.
|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.
|The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry
Edited by Aliki Barnstone
Another very good anthology of spiritual poetry by women, from ancient to modern times. Covers many of the same poets as Women in Praise of the Sacred, like Mirabai, Mahadevi, Lal Ded, Sappho, Sun Buer, Dickenson, Tsvetaeva, but also several different poets. The two books together make a good collection.
|Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems
Translated by Bernard Lewis
This is a very nice, compact sampler of poetry from the near east. Muslim poets, like Hafiz, Rumi, Attar, and al-Hallaj; and Jewish poets, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, and Halevi. The translator, Bernard Lewis, is a western scholar of Near East studies, and his perspectives have come under criticism in recent years for representing an older “Orientalist” world view that can be used to support continued western domination of the region. But this collection of poems is free from that wrangling. Questions of social and academic politics aside, there is an elegance to Lewis’s poetry translations in this collection. Recommended.
|Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania
Edited by Jerome Rothenberg
A wonderful collection of songs, chants, and poetry from primal and ancient cultures around the world. African, Native American, Pacific Islands, pre-Christian Europe… The renderings into English have a very fluid feel. Often it works well, avoiding too much form or forced rhyme; sometimes it may feel a little too modern. Overall, though, an excellent collection.
|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 may 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. Excerpt…
|Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
Translated by David Fideler / Translated by 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 good place to discover some new names.
|Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi
Translated by Mahmood Jamal
Highly recommended for its broad range of Sufi poets, some hard to find in English translation, as well as for it’s approachable translations. Excerpt…
|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.
|Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
Translated by Jennifer Ferraro / Translated by Latif Bolat
This is an excellent sampling of poetry of Turkish Sufis, most of whom haven’t been translated into English until now. You’ll find a few poems by well-known figures, like Yunus Emre, but many other stunning works by names you’re less likely to have heard of, such as Ummi Sinan, Kul Himmet, Seyh Ibrahim Efendi, and Niyazi Misri. Recommended.
|Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality)
by William Chittick / Nasr Seyyed Hossein
Iraqi bridged several Sufi traditions and traveled through much of the Muslim world. Born in Iran (not Iraq), he became a member of an important Sufi order in India/Pakistan. For political reasons, he escaped to Turkey. There he studied the philosophy of Ibn Arabi, inspiring his stunning “Divine Flashes” — spiritual commentaries, peppered with short poetic verses. Very highly recommended!
|Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life
Translated by Th. Emil Homerin
Umar Ibn al-Farid’s poetry is often considered to be the pinnacle of Arabic mystical verse, though surprisingly little known in the West. His two masterpieces: “The Wine Ode,” a beautiful meditation on the “wine” of divine bliss, and “The Poem of the Sufi Way,” a profound exploration of spiritual experience along the Sufi Path. I keep returning to this book for another taste of the “wine.”
|Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir
Translated by Vraje Abramian
I read this book early in my exploration of Sufi poetry — and I was hooked! Abu Said Abil-Kheir’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance. This book remains a personal favorite of mine.
|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.
|The Conference of the Birds
Translated by Afkham Darbandi / Translated by Dick Davis
Attar’s masterpiece about a group of birds (human souls) under the leadership of a hoopoe (spiritual master) who determine to search for the legendary Simurgh (God). The birds must confront their own individual limitations and fears before they ultimately find the Simurgh and complete their quest. This translation is the best I’ve found — though I’m still waiting for a translation that transports me in the same way that FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam does.
|The Conference of the Birds: The Selected Sufi Poetry of Farid ud-Din Attar
Translated by Raficq Abdulla
Not a complete rendering of the Conference of the Birds (see the Penguin Classics version for that), but a nice selection of “highlights” paired with beautiful Persian paintings. Makes a nice gift book.
|The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre
Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan
I found this book by accident. I had read a single poem by Yunus Emre and, transfixed, I blindly ordered this book of translations by Helminski and Algan. This “sea” is beautiful and deep. His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism and humanism and love for God. If you like Rumi, do yourself a favor and read this too.
|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.
|The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari
Translated by Florence Lederer / Edited by David Fideler
Shabistari’s “Secret Rose Garden” expresses a unified vision of Reality similar to the perspective of the great Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, but expressed through the rich Persian poetic tradition. Every page contains meditative treasures.
|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…
|The Shambhala Guide to Sufism
by Carl W. Ernst PhD
Not a collection of poetry, but good book to help you begin to understand who the Sufis really are. It’s been a couple of years since I last read this book, but I remember it as an intelligent, insightful look at the history, practices, philosophies, schools, and even politics of Sufism. If you’ve loved the poetry of Rumi but only have a vague idea of how Sufism fits within the Islamic faith, this book is an excellent place to start.
|The Awakened One: Buddha-Themed Haiku from Around the World
(A Poetry Chaikhana publication)
Edited by Adjei Agyei-Baah and Gabriel Rosenstock
Pairing contemporary haiku by poets from around the world with classical Japanese haiku, The Awakened One offers us a poetic dialog on the nature of awareness across culture and time. Modern haikuists from the UK, the US, Croatia, India, Nigeria and a dozen other countries converse via haiku with Japanese masters, like Basho, Issa and Buson, sharing moments of insight expressed in poetry of a single breath.
(A Poetry Chaikhana publication)
|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.
|Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry
Edited by Wu-chi Liu / Edited by Irving Yucheng Lo
An encyclopedic anthology of Chinese poetry. You’ll find selections from every major and many lesser-known Chinese poets, including Li Po, Wang Wei, Han Shan, Tu Fu, Tao Chien, and far too many more to list. If you’re a lover of Chinese poetry, this is a must have book!
|The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry
Edited by J. P. Seaton
Another excellent collection of Chinese poetry. Less voluminous than Sunflower Splendor, and thus less disorienting. A very good collection if you are just becoming familiar with the rich world of Chinese poetry.
|Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening
Translated by Thupten Jinpa / Translated by Jas Elsner
Believe it or not, I found this one in a discount bin at my local bookstore — but what a find! One of the best general anthologies of Tibetan Buddhist poems I’ve found. Several verses attributed to Milarepa, as well as many other Tibetan yogis and masters. If you haven’t read much Tibetan poetry, this book is an excellent place to start.
|Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter
Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto
A good collection without being overwhelming. I especially like it’s selection of Japanese haiku: Basho, Buson, Issa, Masahide…
|A Drifting Boat: Chinese Zen Poetry
Edited by J. P. Seaton / Edited by Dennis Maloney
Although it has an unassuming cover, this book contains a very good collection of Chinese Ch’an (Zen) poetry. Several different translators, often rendering the work with a modern touch. The world of Chinese poetry can be disorienting; this is a good place to get your bearings.
|The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain
Translated by Red Pine
Han Shan (Cold Mountain) is one of the great figures of Chinese Ch’an/Taoist poetry, playful, cantankerous, rich with insight. There are several other good English renderings of his work, including by Gary Snyder. But in my mind this collection by Red Pine is the authoritative English version. The whole collection is here, along with the poetry of Han Shan’s companions, Feng-kan and Shih-te.
|The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace
by Steven Heine
Although best known for his Zen discourses and his role establishing Zen practice in Japan, Dogen was an excellent poet too. Quiet moments of insight expressed in a bare minimum of lines. One of my favorites.
|Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki – Poems and Sermons
Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu
A friend introduced me to this collection, and I was entranced. Muso Soseki is known today for establishing rock gardening as meditative Zen practice, but his poetry — wonderful! And with translations by WS Merwin, you can’t ask for more!
|Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan
Translated by John Stevens
It’s hard not to like Ryokan – his poetry, yes, but the man behind them too. A hermit and Zen practitioner, at times a comical figure, losing himself in the moment, in a game of ball with the local children, chasing down a thief who left something behind. His poetry encompasses the fulness and absurdity of life.
|The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th Century Chinese Hermit
Translated by Red Pine
Another excellent collection translated by Red Pine. Poems of deep insight, poems of stillness, and also poems observing the minutia of an aging hermit’s simple world at the edge of society. Lovely.
|Mountain Tasting: The Haiku and Journals of Santoka Taneda
By Santoka Taneda, Translated by John Stevens
These haiku by Taneda, a 20th century Zen monk who lived much of his life on the road, are a real treat. While most of these poems don’t reach into the transcendent moment, they are rich with observed detail and presence. Discovering this book was a real pleasure.
|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.
|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 few years ago. Stunning poems from the Shiva bhakti tradition of India. Basava, Devara Dasimayya, Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu. The commentary in the book, though a little academic, is genuinely insightful. Enthusiastically recommended! Excert…
|The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
by Georg Feuerstein
This is not a collection of poetry, but an excellent book to help you make sense of the ancient, complex philosophies, practices, and beliefs that make up yoga. The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. This book will free you from the misconception that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a refreshingly coherent approach. Very highly recommended.
|I Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded
Translated by Ranjit Hoskote
There are several translations of the poetry of Lalla available in English now, good ones too, but Ranjit Hoskote’s versions are my favorite. They seem to marry a love of the original language with a poet’s sense of English, without ever losing the mystic’s fire at the center of each poem. Recommended.
|In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali
Translated by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. / Translated by Denise Levertov
I wanted to love this collection, but I will settle for liking it instead. Even with a great poet like Denise Levertov as one of the translators, I have to say these English renderings don’t quite soar the way they clearly want to. Still, it is a good selection of Krishna bhakti poems. I’d give it a modest recommendation, particularly to Krishna devotees.
|The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal
Translated by Kamil V. Zvelebil
This is an idiosyncratic collection, but one I’ve really come to like. A collection of the poetry of the great Siddha poets of South India. Some of the poems will seem odd or arcane, while others are truly magical, regardless of your spiritual background. Perhaps not a collection for everyone, but if you love the writings and poetry of yoga, you’ll find much to appreciate here.
|For Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai
Translated by Andrew Schelling
Andrew Schelling’s translations embody that tension between heartbreak and ecstasy that runs through all of Mirabai’s poetry. These poems can be read as love poems or as spiritual poems — but, of course, they are both. A lovely collection.
|Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair: Ramprasad Sen – Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess
Translated by Leonard Nathan / Clinton Seely
To be honest, these versions don’t always soar, revel, tease, and trouble with the full spirit of Ramprasad’s songs to the Goddess. But it still remains one of the more complete collections I’ve found in English, and I find myself returning to it nonetheless. Recommended if you have a love for the imagery of the Bengali Goddess Kali and Her devotees, like Ramakrishna.
|Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal
Translated by Rachel Fell McDermott
This is the best collection of Kali poetry I’ve found. Granted, not every poem’s translation works, but the ones that do can stop you in your tracks. And a good selection of poems by some of the great Bengali Goddess poets: Ramprasad, Kamalakanta, Battacharya, and Nasrul Islam, to name the best known. Recommended, if you want to discover the beauty beneath Kali’s fearful mask.
|Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages
by Ursula King
This is not a book of poetry, but highly recommended if you want a brief survey of important visionaries and trends within the sometimes hidden history of Christian mysticism. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, the Beguines, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Jacob Boehme, Symeon the New Theologian, and many others. The author of this book has done a nice job of balancing history with spirituality. This little book makes an excellent introduction to depths of the Christian tradition that are too often overlooked.
|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, 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 an example of my own work in this book, my translation of “The Sum of Perfection” by John of the Cross.
|The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent from the Desert Fathers and Other Early Christian Contemplatives
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.
|German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others
Edited by Karen J. Campbell
The commentary is a little dry, but an excellent selection of poetry by Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, the Granum Sinapis, Angelus Silesius, as well as writings by Eckhart, Boehme, and others.
|Francis and Clare: The Complete Works: The Classics of Western Spirituality
Translated by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP / Translated by Ignatius C. Brady, OFM
I discovered this book years ago in a used book store on Maui, early in my days of reading sacred poetry. I was instantly hooked because, for some reason, it never really occurred to me that you can read the actual personal letters of such great saints of the Catholic tradition, like Francis and Clare of Assisi. But here they are: letters, spiritual guidelines… and poetry. If you’re new to medieval Christian mysticism and thought, this probably isn’t the place to start. But I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to cultivate a more intimate understanding of the spiritual life of one of the most loved saints of the West. Excerpt…
|Hadewijch: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
by Mother Columba Hart
I was introduced to the divine love poetry of the Flemish mystic Hadewijch in the excellent anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by Jane Hirshfield. I knew I had encountered something amazing, but the sampling in that book was frustratingly small. I finally found this book with the complete works of this mysterious Beguine spiritual figure — visions, letters, and a beautiful collection of sacred poetry. The love mysticism of her poetry rightly draws comparisons to the rich traditions of Sufi and Bhakti poetry.
|Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes
The Lauds is a series of ecstatic poems praising love and the total transformation of self through love. Dive deep and explore.
|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.
|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.
|The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
Edited by Peter Cole
Finally we have a truly excellent collection of sacred Jewish poetry. While T. Carmi’s Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse is more comprehensive, Cole’s The Poetry of Kabbalah has more of a poet’s sense of language and even catches of few sparks from the mystic’s fire. This is poetry that startles and transports. The Poetry of Kabbalah has become my favorite source for Jewish mystical poetry in English. Very highly recommended.
|The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492
Edited by Peter Cole
A very good collection of the great Hebrew poets and writers who emerged from the flowering of Jewish culture in Medieval Spain. A nice sampling of important figures of Kabbalah, philosophy, and culture, like Hanagid, ibn Gabirol, Halevi, Abulafia, and many more.
|The Way of the Jewish Mystics
Edited by Perle Besserman
An excellent, pocket-sized collection of poems, prayers, sayings, and stories from Jewish traditions throughout Europe and the Middle East. Selections from the Zohar, the Baal Shem Tov, Martin Buber, Abraham Abulafia, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov, and many more. Strongly recommended.
|A Big Jewish Book: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present
Edited by Jerome Rothenberg
This is a quirky collection of poems from various Jewish traditions rendered into a post-modern freeform that, frankly, feels more at home in the 1970s, when it was published. Having said that, there is something lovable about this thick book. The unusual renderings invite you to play with the poems and take no word or line for granted.
|Marrow of Flame: Poems of the Spiritual Journey
by Dorothy Walters
Introduction by Andrew Harvey
This beloved collection of poetry by Dorothy Walters explores the spiritual journey through its ecstasies, struggles, and vistas. Each step is observed with the keen insight and clear voice of a modern woman who is both a skilled poet and genuine mystic. Dorothy Walters’s poems are immediate and inviting, transcendent and often playful. Many of these poems are in dialog, with Rumi and Rilke, Denise Levertov and Lalla, each poem contributing its own wisdom and humor to the ongoing conversation that passes between visionaries and sages through history and across cultures.
(A Poetry Chaikhana publication!)
|The Kundalini Poems: Reflections of Radiance and Joy
by Dorothy Walters
The continuing poetic dialog between Dorothy Walters and the unfolding dance of the Kundalini. Words of a modern mystic to be savored.
|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.
|Book of My Nights
by Li-Young Lee
Rise early for Mary Oliver and stay up late with Li-Young Lee. Something so direct yet startling in the quiet revelations of his poetry. Book of My Nights is the perfect place to start with his poetry.
|Where Many Rivers Meet
by David Whyte
Adventurer, contemplative, business consultant — but, most deeply, poet. David Whyte is one of the most dynamic and insightful poets today. Where Many Rivers Meet is an excellent introduction to his voice.
|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.
|Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
by John Fox
Not a book of poetry, but a book that belongs on every poetry lover’s bookshelf. This is a book about the transformational nature of poetry – reading it, speaking it, writing it. Poetry as therapy. Poetry as a pathway to self-exploration. Poetry to rediscover your true voice. I was surprised how much I liked this book.
|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.
More to come. Check back.
Which books would you recommend? Feel free to add your comments.