Mar 04 2008


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Updated: December 11, 2018

Recommended Books

See: Recommended Books:
Sacred Poetry Anthologies
Sufi Poetry
Buddhist Poetry
Hindu/Yoga Poetry
Christian Poetry
Jewish Poetry
Modern Poets
– more to come…

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!

For even more book recommendations, see my Goodreads page:
Ivan Granger's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (poetry shelf)

Sacred Poetry – General Anthologies

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.

Sufi 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 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.

Buddhist and Taoist Poetry

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.

Hindu/Yoga Poetry

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 Poetry

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.

Jewish Poetry

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.

Modern Poets

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.

my poetry shelf:
Ivan Granger's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (poetry shelf)

Which books would you recommend? Feel free to add your comments.

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23 responses so far

23 Responses to “Books”

  1. Samon 05 Mar 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Readers of Dante- do check out Michael Palma's translation of Inferno (only far).

    Poetic line breaks for our time. 1ST Rate!

  2. Ivan M. Grangeron 05 Mar 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation, Sam. I'll keep an eye out for it.

    Love a good line break.

  3. Maria Paula Fonsecaon 07 Mar 2008 at 6:57 am

    I Ivan

    Yes the "Conference of the Birds" it's my favorite, i think we all have wings, so we must fly and fly, it's a way to seek!!!!


  4. Md.shahidul islam khanon 21 Dec 2008 at 6:45 am

    yoy are my and my mizan sir favaret poet.I hope you are alowes fine.My sir is bangladeshi poet.He very good friend.He alowes read you poet

  5. Maryon 25 Jan 2009 at 8:05 am

    Dear Ivan: What a treasure trove! Many thanks!

  6. Jeffrey Cooperon 18 Jul 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I have an opportunity to make a garden bench for a JCC in Boca Raton, and I am thinking to decorate it with carved hoopoe and Hebrew lettering.The only mention of the hoopoe in the Bible is to say it is unclean. Do you know of any poetry I could use.

  7. Ivan M. Grangeron 18 Jul 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Jeffrey,
    Find a copy of The Conference of the Birds, by Attar. The hoopoe appears throughout its verses, as the spiritual guide of the rest of the birds.

  8. Juliaon 03 Jan 2010 at 8:39 am

    Came across you by a Stumble chance, and very glad of it! Lovely, gentle, encouraging site.

  9. Bethon 23 Jan 2010 at 10:02 am

    You are not only gifted in your ability to perceive life’s flow, but in your ability to communicate it. You knock me out with your gentleness. Then I view the mass of work you invested to share all that. All I can say right now is “Wow”!

  10. leilaon 08 Feb 2010 at 7:44 am

    Hi Ivan,
    I was looking for Herman Hesse’s poems on chaikhana page,but nothing from him,i wonder if there is an empty place for him or not….i don’t know is he fit in scared poerty or not,maybe coz he wrote more novels rather than poems,but i just love him so much….

    “The Poet” by Hermann Hesse

    Only on me, the lonely one,
    The unending stars of the night shine,
    The stone fountain whispers its magic song,
    To me alone, to me the lonely one
    The colorful shadows of the wandering clouds
    Move like dreams over the open countryside.
    Neither house nor farmland,
    Neither forest nor hunting privilege is given to me,
    What is mine belongs to no one,
    The plunging brook behind the veil of the woods,
    The frightening sea,
    The bird whir of children at play,
    The weeping and singing, lonely in the evening, of a man secretly in love.
    The temples of the gods are mine also, and mine
    the aristocratic groves of the past.
    And no less, the luminous
    Vault of heaven in the future is my home:
    Often in full flight of longing my soul storms upward,
    To gaze on the future of blessed men,
    Love, overcoming the law, love from people to people.
    I find them all again, nobly transformed:
    Farmer, king, tradesman, busy sailors,
    Shepherd and gardener, all of them
    Gratefully celebrate the festival of the future world.
    Only the poet is missing,
    The lonely one who looks on,
    The bearer of human longing, the pale image
    Of whom the future, the fulfillment of the world
    Has no further need. Many garlands
    Wilt on his grave,
    But no one remembers him.

  11. Krison 01 Jun 2010 at 7:58 am

    If you want to include sources found on the web, and prose poetry, I recommend on the Christian side, Thomas Traherne’s _Centuries of Mediation_. Traherne was a contempory of John Donne, but these short meditations were found long after his death around the turn of the 20th Century.

  12. aparnaon 01 Jun 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Thank you Leila for the beautiful share. Beautiful, beautiful!!! (psst. are you the same Leila- my friend from fb??)

  13. marrobon 23 Sep 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Ivan,

    I was given a beautiful book on “Hafez – Teachings on the Philosopher of Love ”
    by Haleh Pourafzal & Roger Montgomery published by Inner Traditions.
    Hafez poetry & delightful in depth commentary. Very good Sufi company.
    Just thought I’d mention it.

    Grateful for your inspiring work.

  14. Warwick, Paulon 10 Oct 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Many thanks for this exhaustive list of books of mysticism and mystical poetry. The only book on the subject of mystical poetry that I am familiar with, is Alan jacob’s extensive compilation published in the UK as “Poetry of the Spirit”. This sizeable work tends to focus on the mysical poets of the Western tradition although there is also a small amount on the Eastern poets.
    I have become increasingly facinated by the works dealing with the mystical tradition within Christianity, a subject the official Church studiously avoids mentioning. A short list of works I would recommend to your (and others) attention would be Evelyn Underhill’s monumental “Mysticism”; the very readable “Mystics of the Christian Tradition” by the religious historian Steven Fanning; and “The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism”, an authoritative anthology by the Theologian and scholar, Bernard McGinn. Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation” is also recommended although it is well over twenty years since I read it and have largely forgotten its’ contents!
    warm regards, Ivan and keep up the good work.


  15. Medusa by Ivan! « thou-art-thy-creatoron 14 Jan 2012 at 12:27 am

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  16. Vinodon 16 Jan 2012 at 8:13 am

    I have been looking for such information so long… A million thanks!

  17. Klara Swannon 24 Jan 2012 at 2:49 am

    What a wonderful source of poetry, I love receiving your daily poems, so often it lifts my heart and resonates with my own story x Bless you x

  18. Bryannaon 19 Nov 2012 at 8:39 am

    Can I just say what a reduction to seek out somebody who truly knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know tips on how to convey a difficulty to light and make it important. Extra people have to read this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant believe youre not more fashionable because you definitely have the gift.

  19. Helene Bango Rochsteinon 19 Sep 2013 at 8:59 am

    Hello Ivan, I would like to present you my recently published book “With the Lamp of my Soul”. Kindly check out my website which will connect you to the publisher.
    The book is a collection of spiritual poetry during my years of searching and connecting with Light. It is dedicated to Light, and it is my soul speaking to the soul of humanity.
    Regards and respect, Jelena.

  20. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 12 Dec 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you, Ivan, for helping me to choose Christmas gifts. Great list you offered.
    Blessings to you and your family during this sacred time! Therese

  21. Anna Banasiakon 20 Feb 2016 at 4:53 am

    The Voice

    I enter the eternal light
    everything is pure
    I walk through the everlasting tunnel
    hear the hidden melody
    people in the nameless streets
    existence swings out in the clouds
    open to the moment

  22. Dadajion 17 Dec 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Dear Ivan

    You may also wish to review my new book : Mystic Verses by Shambhushivananda published by Yavanika Publications , Pune, India in September,2016 . for more info. about how to get a copy, please write to

  23. Mark David Vinzenson 02 Jul 2020 at 11:16 pm

    Oh my God. So many good books 🙂 The Masnavi of Rumi (A New English Translation with Explanatory Notes by Alan Williams) is my recommendation. What R.A. Nicholson’s translation was to the 20th century this will be for the 21st.

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