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Compass of Affection - New and Selected Poems (Paraclete Poetry) Hardcover – August 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Paraclete Poetry
  • Hardcover: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557255032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557255037
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cairns's warm, calm, personal tones win him respect in many quarters, but his core audience comes from his subject matter: the mysteries, consolations and consequences of Christian belief. Questions about how to live as a Christian, how to understand such theological concepts as eros and agape, as sacrifice and resurrection, give depth and seriousness to his verse. Familiarity not only with New Testament texts but with the Church Fathers, their methods of exegesis and sometimes parallel questions from Jewish learning give Cairns a range of allusion and launching pads for his poems, as in the winning series "Adventures in New Testament Greek." A poem from his first collection, The Theology of Doubt (1985), explores "the sober forms / of worship, the forms love takes// when the mind is rested"; "Late Apocalypse," one of the 27 new poems, begins, "Blessed is anyone who reads much of anything, blessed / and most unusual." That poem, among his best, rises into a serious condemnation of our consumer-driven world. More often Cairns seeks compassionate ways to apply the lessons of theologians or of Christ to his own life; one does not need to be Christian, or even religious, to profit from what he finds. (Sept.)
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Review

Cairns's warm, calm, personal tones win him respect in many quarters, but his core audience comes from his subject matter: the mysteries, consolations and consequences of Christian belief. Questions about how to live as a Christian, how to understand such theological concepts as eros and agape, as sacrifice and resurrection, give depth and seriousness to his verse. Familiarity not only with New Testament texts but with the Church Fathers, their methods of exegesis and sometimes parallel questions from Jewish Learning give Cairns a range of allusion and launching pads for his poems, as in the winning series 'Adventures in New Testament Greek." A poem from his first collection, The Theology of Doubt (1985), explores 'the sober forms / of worship, the forms love rakes// when the mind is rested" "Late Apocalypse," one of the 27 new poems, begins, "Blessed is anyone who reads much of anything, blessed / and most unusual." That poem, among his best, rises into a serious condemnation of our consumer-driven world. More often Cairns seeks compassionate ways to apply the lessons of theologians or of Christ to his own life; one does not need to be Christian, or even religious, to profit from what he finds.

Publisher's Weekly June 5, 2006

More About the Author

Scott Cairns is the author of seven collections of poetry, The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, Philokalia, Compass of Affection: Poems New & Selected, and Idiot Psalms. With W. Scott Olsen, he co-edited The Sacred Place, a collection of prose and verse celebrating the intersections of landscape and ideas of the holy. He wrote the libretti for The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, an oratorio composed by JAC Redford, and A Melancholy Beauty, an oratorio composed by Georgi Andreev. His poetry and essays have been included in Best Spiritual Writing, Best American Spiritual Writing, The Pushcart Prize XXVI, Upholding Mystery (Oxford, 1997), The Best of Prairie Schooner, and Shadow & Light, among other anthologies. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, The New Republic, Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, Spiritus, Tiferet, Western Humanities Review, and many other journals. He has taught American literature, poetry writing, and poetics courses at Westminster College, University of North Texas, Old Dominion University, and at University of Missouri, where he is currently Professor of English. In 1993, he founded the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, and served as its series editor from 1993 through 2006. In 2007, his spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, was published by HarperSanFrancisco and his translations and adaptations, Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life, was published by Paraclete Press; the paperback edition, Endless Life, was recently released. With Jeff Johnson and Roy Salmond, he recorded, Parable, a CD of recent poems. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and was named the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri in 2009. He received the Denise Levertov Award in 2014.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glynn Young VINE VOICE on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've never read a theology of poetry before, but I have now with "Compass of Affection: Poems New and Selected" by Scott Cairns.

Published in 2006, this volume of poems includes several selected from previously published works from 1985 to 2002, and then new poems published in 2006. Together, they constitute a kind of "theology of poetry," or perhaps a poetry of theology.

Cairns, professor of English at the University of Missouri, employs poetry to study the teachings of the Bible, the role of tradition, and the life of faith. It is a quiet volume, quiet but full of important things.

It's not the first poem selected, but "The Beginning of the World" is a kind of commentary and explication of the Book of Genesis. From that poem, first published in Figures for the Ghost in 1994:

"But even before that original issue, first utterance of our Great
solitary, His self-demarcation of Himself, before even that first birth
I suspect an inclination. In God's center, something of a murmur,
pre-verbal, pre-phenomenal, perhaps nothing more disturbing to the
moment than a silent clearing of the hollowed throat, am approach
merely, but it was a beginning earlier than the one we had supposed,
and a willingness for something standing our apart from Him, if
nonetheless His own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Volkert Volkersz on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Disclosure: I have known the poet for many years.

So, how does one review a collection of poems by a friend; an anthology spanning 21 years, from 1985 to 2006? To put it simply, it's like mining for gold.

I found some of these poems hard work, in my case too much work, to fully digest and comprehend. I would've benefited with an introduction, a guide, to explain the subtleties of language and context, but such a guide was not available on these pages.

But it was worth mining through these works to find the gold, those pieces that shimmer and shine and are worth every ounce of their weight.

The author was one of my guides into the Orthodox Christian faith in the late 1990s. And many of these poems continue to elucidate the richness of this faith, this spirituality, this life that I continue to embrace, more fully, as he does himself.

One poem, one that I posted by my desk for many years, is indicative of the spiritual depth found here:

Setting Out

Pilgrim: What is it that you do here?
Monk: We fall, and we get up again.

In time, even the slowest pilgrim might
articulate a turn. Given time enough,

the slowest pilgrim--even he--might
register some small measure of belated

progress. The road was, more or less, less
compelling than the hut, but as the benefit

of time allowed the hut's distractions to attain
a vaguely musty scent, and all the novel

knickknacks to acquire a fine veneer of bone-
white dust, the road became then somewhat more

attractive, and as the weather made a timely
if quite brief concession, the pilgrim took this all

to be an open invitation to set out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Beyer on January 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Scott cairns is a dense but accessible poet on Christian spirituality. This is a broad range of poems and topics in one book that I come back to often.
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