Chapters into Verse: A Selection of Poetry in English Inspired by the Bible from Genesis Through Revelation

Overview

Drawing a unique map of the history of English poetry, Chapters Into Verse surveys and defines the literary legacy of the Scriptures from the fourteenth century to the present. Arranged in scriptural order from Genesis to Revelation, the book presents each poem alongside the biblical passage that inspired it. Thus readers can conveniently witness the various ways sacred text has sparked the imagination of poets throughout the ages. The editors have included poems by virtually all the prominent religious ...

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Overview

Drawing a unique map of the history of English poetry, Chapters Into Verse surveys and defines the literary legacy of the Scriptures from the fourteenth century to the present. Arranged in scriptural order from Genesis to Revelation, the book presents each poem alongside the biblical passage that inspired it. Thus readers can conveniently witness the various ways sacred text has sparked the imagination of poets throughout the ages. The editors have included poems by virtually all the prominent religious poets—among them John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Edward Taylor, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Included, too, are devotional and visionary works from a wide range of vintage poets—Robert Burns, William Blake, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Alfred Tennyson, and Robert Browning. Proving that the Bible is just as powerful a source of inspiration today as it was in the past, the collection also assembles a mixed congregation of modern and contemporary poets, such as Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Countee Cullen, e.e. cummings, William Butler Yeats, Laura (Riding) Jackson, A.D. Hope, Denise Levertov, and Philip Levine.

Of enduring interest to readers of both scripture and literature, this anthology illuminates key passages of the Old and New Testament. In selection after selection, readers will encounter an astonishing variety of religious experiences, as a host of poets from many eras and many backgrounds respond to Holy Scripture profoundly and imaginatively.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
All of the poems selected for this anthology respond to a particular passage in the Bible. The poems are arranged in Biblical order, and each poem is accompanied on the facing page by the Biblical text that inspired it. Sometimes, if the text is complete or if too long, an excerpt is used. This arrangement, the editor tells us, allows the reader to see the interplay between the passage and the poem and how the poet's response was fashioned by the text. The editors established two criteria for inclusion of a poem: 1) that the poem possessed "real literary merit" and 2) that it responded to a particular scriptural source. For that reason, some major poets like Shakespeare and Shelley are not included. Those represented include Milton and the clergy themselves who were also poets, like Donne and George Herbert. Also included are vintage poets like Dickinson and Tennyson. More contemporary poets voice their response in poetry that echoes the temper of their times. These include William Carlos Williams, Denise Levertov, and Allen Ginsberg. Poetic responses from all the poets represented range from the visionary and devotional to the skeptical and irreverent. An example of varied responses to the same Biblical text are the poems relating to the passage in Genesis, "So God created man in his own image..." William Blake's stirring piece "A Divine Image" is very different from Joe Corrie's "The Image o' God," in which a coal miner questions this resemblance: "Crawlin' aboot like a snail in the mud,/ Covered wi' clammy blae/ ME made after the image o' God-/ Jings! but it's laughable, tae." James Dickey and Allen Ginsberg respond to the passage from Mark when Christ was seen to walk onwater. Dickey makes a miracle of the more explicable possibility of a boy floating on a plank of wood: "A curious pilgrim hiking/ Between two open blue worlds..." Ginsberg's piece, "Galilee Shore," responds more to the people's fear of what they saw. In Ginsberg's journey to the holy land, miracles again seem ripe to happen, and perhaps did happen, in what he describes as a magical place rife with beauty and danger. This is a rich collection that could be used effectively in literature and religion classes. Because it has the Bible as its focus, it may elicit more than passing interest from those who usually shy away from poetry. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Oxford Univ. Press, 480p, index, 24cm, 99-056691, $21.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Sue E. Budin; YA Libn., Ann Arbor P.L., Ann Arbor, MI, May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195136760
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: ABR
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 990,315
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Atwan is founder and series editor of The Best American Essays and co-editor of Divine Inspiration (OUP 1998) Laurance Wieder is a poet and the editor of The Poets' Book of Psalms (OUP 1999).

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