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Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life Hardcover – May 31, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

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. . . 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." -- Publishers Weekly

"Scott Cairns is one of the best poets alive." -- Annie Dillard

"Scott Cairns is perhaps the most important and promising religious poet of his generation." -- Prairie Schooner

"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. . . 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." -- Publishers Weekly

"Scott Cairns is one of the best poets alive." -- Annie Dillard

"Scott Cairns is perhaps the most important and promising religious poet of his generation." -- Praire Schooner

From the Inside Flap

The Holy One pours out

upon those who love

the vision of the truth a power that enables

them to see the image -

and this power is Himself. -from "Illumination," by Saint Macrina the Younger Scott Cairns is convinced that "the words of the mystics sacramentally partake of the Word Himself, and as such are inexhaustible, generative powers." These selections are unified in their common claim that Love is the most compelling name of God, and also the most apt attribute of the Holy One in Whom we live and move and have our being. In that spirit, Cairns offers Love's Immensity as "a mere taste of the bountiful feast that awaits any who would pursue a life of faith and prayer, equipped with both the holy scriptures and the holy tradition that surrounds them."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Pr (May 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557255253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557255259
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scott Cairns is the author of eight collections of poetry, The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, Philokalia, Compass of Affection: Poems New & Selected, Idiot Psalms, and Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems. 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 for 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. He also serves on the poetry faculty of the Seattle Pacific University low-residency MFA program in writing. 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, and a new, expanded edition of Short Trip to the Edge will be released in 2016. 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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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Slowdown on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a book of "poems" that will stand out independently as works of "art," then I would say that this is not your book. If you want a representative anthology of writings from the mystics that will give you all the right information (and there's nothing wrong with that), then look elsewhere.

However, this is a lovely and very useful collection. These are poetic studies of writings from primarily the Christian mystical tradition--and with an Orthodox sensibility. They are also prayers themselves. Cairns uses poetry both to resurrect the poetry of the originals and to think them anew by rethinking, remaking them.

In the mystical tradition, there is a practice of reading as prayer, and Cairns is writing in this tradition. When one reads these poems, one is focusing not only on the poems themselves, but also on the leading in the poems, and one is looking toward where the leading is leading. One is trying to take direction from this poetry. The point is to make spiritual friends of these writers, to participate in their movement toward God. Beauty and art and intelligence are part of this, but they are what they are only as they lead one further into God.

This book is not for everyone. It requires one to slow way down, to participate in re-blazing the paths these writers blazed. It also requires, I believe, a familiarity with Christian tradition and its history, and certainly an openness to its spirituality--and all of these are growing rarer. In addition, of course, one must also be open to Cairns's own specific poetic--he has very a bodied intellect and a dialogical style, full of voice and its pauses, direct addresses, questions.

If you're prepared for his giving, there is quite a current of receiving to step into here. If not, there are other trails, but none of them are especially easy to climb onto.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. Doug Floyd VINE VOICE on February 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Love's Immensity - Mystics on the Endless Life
by Scott Cairns

We are but dim reflections of a love so true, a light so pure, a life so alive. Created in the image of God, we still carry the haunting beauty of his touch despite our falling and failing. Reading Scott Cairns' new volume of poetry, "Love's Immensity," I am reminded of the hope of restored glory that shines from our "gleaming Liberator Jesus Christ."

Drawing from the writings of early Church Fathers, desert monastics and Medieval mystics, Cairns weaves a wondrous cord of images and words that capture the beauty of our creation and restoration through God's transforming presence. Translating always offers challenges for the reader and the writer. Are we reading the translator or the original writer? How does a translator capture ideas that are not translatable?

Cairns addresses some of this complexing challenge by addressing the challenge of translating "nous," a word common in early church and Eastern Orthodox writings. This multi-layered idea is not easily translated. When we interpret "nous" as mind or heart, we tend to rob the word of nuanced implications by reducing the meaning to our deficient and disconnected understanding of mind and body.

So Cairns writes, "There is one word .. that I have decided for the most part not to translate at all, hoping that we might acquire a renewed sense of the word itself, and hoping that we might dodge the diminishments of its uniformly unsatisfactory translation." Since "nous" and "noetic prayer" are fundamental ideas in many ancient writings, it worthwhile to try and penetrate some of what the New Testament and early church writers meant when they used this word.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gaist Byron Jack on May 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a collection of writings from both Eastern and Western Church Fathers and Christian mystics. What I think makes it so special and very pleasant to read, is the fact that Scott Cairns renders the writings into colloquial English, at the same time managing to preserve the dignity of the original. This has the effect of immediacy, bringing the saint's message in each case into direct contact with our current condition as modern readers, as if we're listening to the words of a wise and friendly contemporary. An excellent collection, and a joy to add to my library!
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Format: Hardcover
In the preface of this volume, Scott Cairns begins: “This collection is a mere taste of the bountiful feast that awaits any who would pursue a life of faith and prayer, equipped with both the holy Scriptures and the holy tradition that surrounds them.”

He goes on to say, “This book offers some of that tradition, and its purpose is to make available—in what I hope is a pleasing form—some of the spiritual guidance offered by the mothers and fathers who have walked this particular Way before us. Their words have been rendered here in verse, and—one prays—in poetry as well. It is safe to say that the originals were all poetry, though they were not all verse. I have re-translated where I both could and felt that I should; I have “adapted” virtually everywhere else, hoping to press a range of existing—and what I took to be insufficiently suggestive—translations into more generous terms, whose evocative figurations might yet come into play, yielding more rather than less.”

And in the Prologue, Scott quotes from “The Cloud of the Unknowing,” asking the reader “to read slowly, and thoroughly, tasting each word’s trouble.”

I made the mistake of trying to rush through this volume of spiritual quotes, rendered as verse, because of the clean simple layout. What I began realizing is that there were so many voices to be heard, that I was jumbling them in my mind. I eventually slowed down, deciding to read one voice per day, and thereby the confusion ceased and I was able to hear more clearly.

There is an inherent unity to what the great Christian mystics say about the immensity of God’s love, as well as their love for God.
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