Father McDonnell often packs more exegesis and more holy imagination in two minutes of poetry than I hear in thirty minutes of a sermon.
The Asbury Journal
[M]asterfully crafted, and totally engaging. . . . McDonnell is a genius at inserting some of the latest contemporary idioms and realities into biblical scenesa maneuver that brings the reader’s attention to an upright position,’ squashing any patronizing attitude one may be harboring with regard to the poet’s age and environment. . . . [H]e retains his tremendously refreshing sense of humor, his ability to poke fun at himself, the twinkle in his eye, and his delightful obstreperous verve.
The craft, wit, and belief of these poems are, perhaps, an unexpected combination, in these purportedly secular times. Their faith is anything but Fundamentalist, and even flirts with heterodoxybut carries a weight of certainty nonetheless. One must wish Father McDonnell a long life of devotion and writing.
Religion and the Arts
Kilian McDonnell’s faith wrestling, deep compassion and sense of humour shout from every page.
Preachers need to know the wonderful biblical poetry of theologian/monk Kilian McDonnell. His poems, based on careful exegesis, may be considered preaching in another key. These poems have powerful simplicity, depth, and are not only an honest response to biblical texts, they open imaginative possibilities for preaching. McDonnell does not write pious verse, but confronts God. He addresses trouble and grace buried in the text, like Jacob wrestling through the night with God.
Paul Scott Wilson, Professor of Homiletics, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
Lovers of poetry will be grateful that McDonnell has begun to express in poetic works his thoughts of Scripture, the monks, or everyday living in a monastery. McDonnell expresses his love of God with wit and irony. These poems tell what it means to be human while living on earth, waiting for God to drop the other shoe. They are a joy to read and are filled with wisdom. Find some cozy spot where you can sit and enjoy these words of wisdom. Don’t get too comfortable because these poems deserve study as well as enjoyment.
The final section is an essay that opens with a discussion of religious experience in the work of more than a dozen poets from Plato to Robert Frost. It is in the essay that we learn more about McDonnell as a poet. He finds inspiration in the silence within the biblical/liturgical culture of the monastery, which can evoke a host of new images and possibly a new language’ related to seeking God and God’s glory.
Yahweh’s Other Shoe is at once elegiac and joyful, generous in spirit and abundant in wisdom derived from a long life lived richly and deeply, and with an abiding faith at its core. These meditations on the monastic life offer the reader a first-hand guided tour of the contemplative journey. Like Job, McDonnell is not afraid to ask the difficult questions, nor is he unwilling to face the silent mystery and stand in awe of its presence. Many of McDonnell’s poems are inspired retellings of familiar Old and New Testament stories and charactersAbraham and Sarah, Isaiah, Joseph and Mary, Mary Magdalenethat breathe new life and understanding into them, allowing us to re-imagine their meanings and implications for our own lives. Take comfort in these poems, reader: the human heart is speaking.
Thom Tammaro, Professor of English, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead, Minnesota
Kilian McDonnell, OSB, is a monk/theologian of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. He is the author of three other books of poetry: Swift, Lord, You Are Not, Yahweh’s Other Shoe, and God Drops and Loses Things (Saint John’s University Press).