cover image Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry

Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry

. Oxford University Press, USA, $65 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-19-509351-3

readers will find a remarkable diversity of poets ranging from Hildegard of Bingen, Aquinas and Dante to Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, Czeslaw Milosz and Leopold Senghor. The collection leans heavily on 20th-century works to convey the variety of uses to which poets have put the figure of Jesus. For example, Iraqi poet Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, in her poet ""The City of Sinbad,"" uses Jesus as a political symbol, and Abioseh Nicol's poem ""Easter Morning"" expresses the Christian intellectual poet's struggle to affirm Christ in an African context. Editors Atwan (editor of Best American Essays), Dardess (a teacher at the Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, N.Y.) and Rosenthal (contributing editor to Commonweal and America) have elegantly unified this vast array of material. Organized thematically around the life of Jesus, the book is divided into nine sections, including ""Birth and Infancy,"" ""Parables,"" ""The Passion"" (by far the longest section) and ""The Resurrection,"" and it pairs passages from the Gospels with poems they inspired. The dual effect is rewarding: the collection boasts a strong sense of biblical narrative enlivened by moments of stirring lyrical beauty, allowing opportunities for devotional meditation as well as confrontation with the stark questions of faith and doubt. (Jan.)