Title: For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
Author: Roger Housden
Category: Poetry – Christian
Published: Nov 1, 2009 by Hay House
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
In this collection, Roger introduces us to some of the foremost poets of both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions. He takes us from the wisdom of the Desert Fathers to the passion of St. Augustine, through the medieval ecstasies of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Siena, to the subtleties of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila; and on to contemporary voices such as Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot, and Mary Oliver. Roger’s insightful commentary on each poem inspires us to take its words more deeply into our souls and shows how the mystical tradition transcends sectarian divides and speaks to the heart of humanity.
The poems in For Lovers of God Everywhere are gorgeous, meaningful, insightful. It’s a diverse collection, and I imagine most if not all Christians will find a piece that resonates with them, whether it was written hundreds of years ago or in the past few years. I don’t think it’s a book to read straight through, but to read bit by bit, to think about, to feel. And, as always, I tend to like poetry read aloud. I like the sounds, the cadence, the rhythm.
With each poem or excerpt, Housden provides a short commentary. Some of what he says is helpful in understanding the poem, but some seem rather pointless. What I did appreciate were the brief biographies of the poets in the back of the book.
I feel like there might be better collections out there, but this is a good starting place. A lot of writers are introduced and I’ve found several I would like to read more from and more about. I didn’t appreciate how short some of the excerpts were. I understand that you can’t include all of The Inferno, but some of the poems just seemed overly edited, shortened or middle parts left out that didn’t necessarily need to be. Maybe I’m just being overly picky.
I guess I expected more. I’m not sure what exactly, but it doesn’t call for me to pick it up, to linger. Maybe it’s the format. I think I would like the poems better if the comments weren’t on the adjacent page, maybe if they were grouped by topic with an introduction to the topic and them the poems. But then it would be a different book, wouldn’t it?
I’ll end with a couple of the poems.
The Sum of Perfection
Creator only known,
Attention turned inward
In love with the Beloved alone.
– Saint John of the Cross
A Fish Cannot Drown in Water
A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of its making,
Gold doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
Must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?
-Mechtild of Magdeburg