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Levertov profoundly interacts with Christian relgious themes
on January 29, 2005
This collection of "selected poems on religious themes" is not to be confused with religious poetry, or inspirational poetry. Here we have a renowned modern poet from the late 20th Century, who embraced the Christian faith late in life, interacting with spiritual sources that crossed her path while on her journey of faith.
Often one only gets out of a poem what one brings to it, at other times the poem speaks for itself. Both are the case here. Levertov develops a personal dialogue with various texts, personages and paintings, such as Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich, the Mass for St. Thomas Didymus, Caedmon from Bede's "History of the English Church," Velazquez's "The Servant Girl at Emmaus," Brother Lawrence's "Practice of the Presence of God," "Hail, space for the uncontained God" (from the Orthodox Christian Akathist hymn), as well as numerous New Testament passages.
Some of these poems presuppose at least a nodding acquaintance with the original source. Others, such as those dealing with Christ's suffering on the cross, will be more accessible, since most of our culture still retains an awareness of the life of Christ.
While I struggled through some of these works, knowing that if I took the time I could get much more out of them, others demanded to be read a second and third time immediately.
Such was the case with "Annunciation," which draws on the Gospel account of when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to bear the Son of God: "But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions/ courage./ The engendering Spirit/did not enter her without consent./ God waited./ She was free/ to accept or to refuse, choice/ integral to humanness."
Many still believe that modern poetry and the Christian faith don't mix. Here is proof otherwise. Going through this volume may be like mining for gold for some, but believe me, it's worth the effort. If you like this volume, check out works by Scott Cairns, also found here at Amazon.