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Faith, Hope and Poetry explores the poetic imagination as a way of knowing; a way of seeing reality more clearly. Presenting a series of critical appreciations of English poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, Malcolm Guite applies the insights of poetry to contemporary issues and the contribution poetry can make to our religious knowing and the way we 'do theol Faith, Hope and Poetry explores the poetic imagination as a way of knowing; a way of seeing reality more clearly. Presenting a series of critical appreciations of English poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, Malcolm Guite applies the insights of poetry to contemporary issues and the contribution poetry can make to our religious knowing and the way we 'do theology'. This book is not solely concerned with overtly religious poetry, but attends to the paradoxical ways in which the poetry of doubt and despair also enriches theology. Developing an original analysis and application of the poetic vision of Coleridge, Larkin and Seamus Heaney in the final chapters, Guite builds towards a substantial theology of imagination and provides unique insights into truth that complement and enrich more strictly rational ways of knowing. Readers of this book will return to their reading of poetry equipped with new insights and enthusiasm and will be challenged to integrate imaginative ways of knowing into their other academic and intellectual pursuits.


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Faith, Hope and Poetry explores the poetic imagination as a way of knowing; a way of seeing reality more clearly. Presenting a series of critical appreciations of English poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, Malcolm Guite applies the insights of poetry to contemporary issues and the contribution poetry can make to our religious knowing and the way we 'do theol Faith, Hope and Poetry explores the poetic imagination as a way of knowing; a way of seeing reality more clearly. Presenting a series of critical appreciations of English poetry from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day, Malcolm Guite applies the insights of poetry to contemporary issues and the contribution poetry can make to our religious knowing and the way we 'do theology'. This book is not solely concerned with overtly religious poetry, but attends to the paradoxical ways in which the poetry of doubt and despair also enriches theology. Developing an original analysis and application of the poetic vision of Coleridge, Larkin and Seamus Heaney in the final chapters, Guite builds towards a substantial theology of imagination and provides unique insights into truth that complement and enrich more strictly rational ways of knowing. Readers of this book will return to their reading of poetry equipped with new insights and enthusiasm and will be challenged to integrate imaginative ways of knowing into their other academic and intellectual pursuits.

30 review for Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve Bell

    The first time I read this book was like the first time hearing a great album of music. So many delights... so many unexpected turns... so many great pay-offs. The second time, I found myself looking forward to certain sections, being dazzled by ones I missed the first time, and settling into the lovely, ambient air of Malcolm's poetic prose - itself a testament to the dictum, the medium is the message. The third time was more absorbing than the first two. Now familiar, sitting longer with certain The first time I read this book was like the first time hearing a great album of music. So many delights... so many unexpected turns... so many great pay-offs. The second time, I found myself looking forward to certain sections, being dazzled by ones I missed the first time, and settling into the lovely, ambient air of Malcolm's poetic prose - itself a testament to the dictum, the medium is the message. The third time was more absorbing than the first two. Now familiar, sitting longer with certain passages, and giving myself to the work rather than mining it for bankable insights. Recently, I've taken to selecting chapters and passages in the same way I might select favorite songs according to mood and occasion, reading for sheer pleasure. But there's uncommon wisdom here as well: Handily challenging the analytic, reductive and atomizing bluster of the Enlightenment's inordinate reason, Malcolm explores the "power of poetry to renew vision by transfiguring the ordinary, to reveal in 'utter visibility' that things are 'alive with what's invisible.'" With a reverent mastery of material I've not encountered elsewhere, Malcolm first draws on the archaic Dream of the Rood through Shakespeare to the poetry of Sir John Davies, John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Milton, Coleridge, and on through Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, and Geoffrey Hill to the replenishing fountain that is the poetry of Seamus Heaney. Throughout, his purpose is to "vindicate the imagination and to rekindle our sense of the marvelous." Like another reviewer has already said, I give this 5 stars because there isn't an option for 10.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Malcolm Guite offers us an incredibly dense yet luminous book which traces the way in which poetry and the poetic imagination can help the reader understand reality. Poetry can function in ways which are opposed to materialism which denies the existence of the supernatural. The works discussed here range from the Old English Dream of the Rood to the poetry of Seamus Heaney (1939-2013). Poetry serves as a sort of mirror or window which allows us to see into ourselves, and into the physical world, Malcolm Guite offers us an incredibly dense yet luminous book which traces the way in which poetry and the poetic imagination can help the reader understand reality. Poetry can function in ways which are opposed to materialism which denies the existence of the supernatural. The works discussed here range from the Old English Dream of the Rood to the poetry of Seamus Heaney (1939-2013). Poetry serves as a sort of mirror or window which allows us to see into ourselves, and into the physical world, but it also allows us a glimpse behind and beyond, to God Who is the Eternal Source. Surprisingly, Guite does not limit himself to Christian writers alone. He also explores the poetry of some (Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin and Geoffrey Hill) who do not subscribe to Christianity. These writers are drawn, in spite of themselves, to deal with the issues it raises. But even for Christians, achieving this supernatural vision does not come without effort and sometimes it is achieved only at the cost of great anguish. This is evident especially in the cases of Milton who struggled with physical blindness, Coleridge who took years to come to a right understanding of the poetic imagination, and Heaney who went through a spiritual journey somewhat akin to that of Dante.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    "This book has been written as both a vindication and a celebration of the poetic imagination..." This is from the conclusion of Malcolm Guite's very insightful book. His premise, to defend poetic communication and imagination and "truth-bearing" as he calls it is deftly handled. Guite makes his case citing a list of poets (Shakespeare, Milton, Hill, Heaney, Coleridge etc) and their works as examples of both the immediate meaning and yet deeper nuances of poetic communication. In the entire list "This book has been written as both a vindication and a celebration of the poetic imagination..." This is from the conclusion of Malcolm Guite's very insightful book. His premise, to defend poetic communication and imagination and "truth-bearing" as he calls it is deftly handled. Guite makes his case citing a list of poets (Shakespeare, Milton, Hill, Heaney, Coleridge etc) and their works as examples of both the immediate meaning and yet deeper nuances of poetic communication. In the entire list Coleridge and Heaney reign as Guite's prime examples, and rightly so. My interest in poetry was fired by reading a similar book, Can Poetry Matter by Dana Gioia, years ago. And reading Guite's book has made my excursion into the land of "slant" communication a treat. I plan to read the poetry of all the poets Guite critiques and I am quite excited about this. I will be returning consistently to Faith, Hope and Poetry in the years to come to influence my own thinking, speaking, and writing on these issues.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justin Ariel

    One of the best examples I've seen of how to put theology and poetry in dialogue. There are parts of the book where Guite's prose absolutely sings. Take up and read! One of the best examples I've seen of how to put theology and poetry in dialogue. There are parts of the book where Guite's prose absolutely sings. Take up and read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    An absolute delight. I'm always a fan of Guite's poetry, and his poetic criticism turned out to be no less wonderful. He looks at British poetry through binoculars of faith and hope, dropping the fetters of the Enlightenment, summiting the mountain admirably. Part of my enjoyment, I imagine, came from my familiarity with the poets/poems he includes: The Dream of the Rood, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, John Donne and George Herbert, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Philip Larkin, An absolute delight. I'm always a fan of Guite's poetry, and his poetic criticism turned out to be no less wonderful. He looks at British poetry through binoculars of faith and hope, dropping the fetters of the Enlightenment, summiting the mountain admirably. Part of my enjoyment, I imagine, came from my familiarity with the poets/poems he includes: The Dream of the Rood, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, John Donne and George Herbert, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Philip Larkin, and Seamus Heaney. Yet, I found the others easy to grasp under Guite's guidance: Sir John Davies, Henry Vaughan, Thomas Hardy, and Geoffrey Hill. I was surprised at the absence of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but after having read many of Guite's poems, I can imagine that they're not exactly stylistic buddies even if they are theology-meets-poetry buddies. In college, I worked on a project connecting John Donne and St Augustine, and landed at a tentative conclusion that poetry itself was a theological method for Donne. The discipline of form yielded as much theological reflection in Donne as the discipline of didactic autobiography yielded theology in Confessions. Thus, I was heart-glad to arrive at Guite's conclusion that "a study of poetic imagination turns out to be a form of theology." (243) Added to his analysis of poetry and theology, it's safe to say that writing poetry can be a method of theology. This shines most brightly in the metaphysical poets, who blend form and theory, but can be determined in virtually any religious poetry. Highly recommended to those who enjoy religion and poetry, any of the poets mentioned above, or theology, imagination, and art.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Alexander

    Utterly brilliant author. On Imagination "In what sense should we speak of imagination as fallen? In some quarters, particularly in classical Calvinism, the imagination is seen as somehow more degraded and overthrown than reason. Theology is therefore pursued and presented in highly syllogistic and logical form, as pared of imagery as possible. The problem with this approach is that it privileges one faculty over against another, as though reason were itself somehow less 'fallen' than imagination Utterly brilliant author. On Imagination "In what sense should we speak of imagination as fallen? In some quarters, particularly in classical Calvinism, the imagination is seen as somehow more degraded and overthrown than reason. Theology is therefore pursued and presented in highly syllogistic and logical form, as pared of imagery as possible. The problem with this approach is that it privileges one faculty over against another, as though reason were itself somehow less 'fallen' than imagination. This goes together with a misreading of Augustine's doctrine of illumination, which assumes that the Logos, as the 'light which lightens everyone who comes into the world', is to be identified with the light of pure reason rather than a direct intellectual apprehension or grasp of truth that involves imagination as well. The consequence of this has been a church culture that starved the imagination, was suspicious of mystery, but was unaware that, in deifying a logical and syllogistic method in theology, it was in fact creating its own idol. This kind of theology refuses the full consequence and meaning of the incarnation, of believing that the word was made flesh…the 'ideological argument' of syllogistic theology is no less 'fallen', provisional, and seen through a glass darkly than any of the resonant and mysterious images available to the imagination. But there is this difference, that abstract language pretends to a precision, a finality that it cannot deliver, and this, ironically, is what makes it potentially more idolatrous than the images of which it is so suspicious." -Malcolm Guite, Faith, Hope and Poetry, pg. 10,11 "Through poetry I hope to explore our imagination as an aspect of the Imago Dei in humankind, as an active, shaping power of perception exercised both individually and collectively, and as a faculty that is capable of both apprehending and embodying truths." Pg. 15 "…you get that entering into experience, that coalescing of observer and observed, that was so dreadfully and drily missing from the Enlightenment perspective." pg. 19 "Unfortunately, [C.S.] Lewis was fully in the grip of the post-Enlightenment apartheid discussed in the Introduction, in which imagination could have nothing to do with the insights of reason, which was itself thereby weakened and dwindled into mere rationalism. As Lewis himself starkly put it: 'Such then was the state of my imaginative life; over against it stood the life of my intellect. The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast. On the one side a many-islanded land of poetry and myth; on the other a glib and shallow 'rationalism'. Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.'" Guite explains that Owen Barfield helped persuade Lewis of the truth that Coleridge, reacting against the Enlightenment at its height, had hammered out: that imagination and aesthetic experience have as much right to be considered windows onto real truth as does purely rational argument. --pg. 50 "…it is only by 'strong imagination' that we ever enjoy the truths we apprehend at all. For every act of communication, including the most rigorously scientific, is built of langu\age - the vast system of metaphors bequeathed us by the possibilities of imagination and by the work of poets. Indeed, you could argue that all great poetry works by holding these two ways of knowing in creative tension. Poetic force is generated between the apprehension, of the hitherto unknowable, which gives it its depth, resonance and meaning, and the comprehension of the shapes and images in which it bodies forth its apprehension which is what allows it to communicate at all. We can see poems failing when they capitulate to either one of these pole: when they are so comprehensible as to lead us to nowhere, give us nothing, and remain on a trite surface; or when they are so full of unclothed or un-embodied apprehension that they offer us no common bridge in language or picture to the poet's truth and so remain obscure and opaque. But we can equally see, and indeed we know in all the faculties of our soul, when a poem succeeds, when the knowable form of its comprehended image, the glassy surface of its mirror of imitation, is suddenly a window that lets us pass through into the new world the poet has apprehended." pg. 58 Guite's explanation of how the poet in Thomas Hardy and Philip Larkin works in a sense at cross purposes with the atheist in them in their poetry is utterly fascinating. It is hard to capture the depth and profundity of Guite's insight into poetry and the poetic imagination, both historically, philosophically and theologically. At the heart of this excellent work is the Coleridgean insight in the creative imagination… "Coleridge claimed that the great folly of his own age (as of ours) was its submission to 'the despotism of the eye', the naïve assumption that only the visible is real. The poetic imagination helps us to see the reality of the unseen." Pg. 139 The Task of Poetry Guite elucidates in places throughout his series of essays the task of poetry. "Transposition is very much what poetry and all literary art is about. To hear snatches from the huge unknowable symphony of experience, to catch them and transpose them to a key that resonates with our understanding, so that at some point they harmonise with that unheard melody from heaven we are always trying to hear - that is the purpose of poetry." -Malcolm Guite, Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination, pg. 23 "…poetry enables us to credit, and so to see, realities we would otherwise miss." (pg. 217) "The purpose of imagination, in its playfulness and poetry in particular, is to be a bridge between reason and intuitive apprehension, to find for apprehension just those shapes, those local habitations and names, that make for comprehension." pg. 58 "Davies makes some useful distinctions, particularly about the difference between the mere perception, the mechanical registering, as it were, of phenomena, and the inner understanding of their form and meaning. This is a distinction that is crucial to our understanding of the difference between art and photography, between reportage and poetry. It allows us to understand the function of art in opening up insight into the inner beauty and meaning of experience, into what Hopkins called inscape." pg. 93 "'…our concern was speech, and speech impelled us, To purify the dialect of the tribe And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight…' These words… embody the changeless task of poetry in every generation, which is to give us more than merely outward or momentary sight of our lives…The role of poet as guardian and purifier of speech, as the one who would enable language to open up new vistas rather than close them down, would become more and more important as the tenor and spirit of the age moved from late mediaevalism towards modernism…The poet's task is to allow the vision of the soul to underlie the vision of the senses so that for a moment we see both the outside and the essence." pg. 103 "For Milton, as for Coleridge after him, and many others, it is not only humanity that makes poetry but God, and if our poetry is made of words about things, God's poetry is made of the very things themselves. This universe we think so solid and so self-contained, this visible cosmos that we seem content to read literally and only literally, is also the poetry of our maker. It is speech, in the language of form and motion spoken to us from heaven. The business of science is to construe the surface meaning of the text of the universe, but it is the business of poetry to understand the deeper things of which the text is really speaking." Pg. 140 "…poets are concerned not only with the meaning of words, but with savouring and celebrating the words themselves, the very sounds. And so it is that, in reading great poetry, our vision is doubled: we become aware simultaneously both of the word as a thing in itself, a chosen sound, a kind of music in the air, and also of that other reality, that mystery of truth of which the word is the gatekeeper." pg. 160 Comments: Guite is strongly persuasive regarding the power and vital role of poetry and the prescience and much needed, corrective insights of Coleridge. On Symbol "It is a symbol that is given, is moulded by and participates in the reality it represents. Coleridge distinguished true symbols from artificial analogies; he summed up his distinction in a late work, 'The Statesman's Manual': 'The Symbol is characterized by… the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in the Unity, of which it is representative.' Whereas analogies are 'but empty echoes which the fancy arbitrarily associates with apparitions of matter, less beautiful but not less shadowy than the sloping orchard or hill-side pasture=field seen in the transparent lake below.'" Pg. 158-59 Brilliant Judgments About Poets "Keats was perhaps the greatest master of the music inherent in the English language, but all great poetry has it to some degree." pg. 26 "The poem ('The Good Morrow' by John Donne) opens in a natural and conversational way, with direct language and the rhythms of natural speech (something that was to be lost from English poetry for most of the next century until Wordsworth and Coleridge recovered it in Lyrical Ballads)." pg. 106 "(Henry) Vaughan was explicit about his spiritual and literary debt to (George) Herbert, 'whose holy life and verse gained many pious converts (of whom I am the least)' Certainly Vaughan had learned from his master Herbert that the key is to move from a shallow discursive knowledge, knowledge of 'assaying,' to a redeeming relational knowledge, the knowledge of 'tasting' …" Pg. 128 It seems to me this comment by Malcolm Guite also illuminates something of the quality and nature of Guite's own writing. I am reminded about what was said of Jesus, that he spoke as one with authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees. "In many ways, Milton is not only the stateliest but also the most impersonal of all the English poets. His sense of poetic decorum leads to an almost complete self-effacement when he is addressing himself to the task of his great epic. Only where some aspect of his experience is genuinely pertinent to the task in hand does he give it voice. He is utterly removed from the later Romantic and modern vogue for self-expression." pg. 133 "Although Coleridge is best known for a handful of brilliant poems written in the course of a few miraculous years when he was a young man at the end of the eighteenth century, it is less well known he spent the rest of his life, the first thirty-four years of the nineteenth century reflecting on the meaning of that intense experience- the experience of having been the mind through which great works of imagination had been revealed…As we come to the end of the Enlightenment project, whose shortcomings Coleridge so strongly attacked while he was in the midst of it, we may find in his writings very useful guides for the seas we have to navigate in the new 'post-modern' era.-" pg. 146 Valuable Historical and Genealogical Notes on Malady Regarding Poetry and Modernity See pg. 104, pg. 119

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Early in the New Year, I finished this volume which is a beacon of hope for those of us who maintain faith in the midst of a dark night of rationalism, knowing that there is more afoot than reductionism and materialism and scientism with their false certainties provide. Yet how can we articulate that vision, having been raised in these -isms of late modernity? Poetry is Guite's answer. In this book, he discusses how poetry, with its fraught edges of language and human experience, its deployment o Early in the New Year, I finished this volume which is a beacon of hope for those of us who maintain faith in the midst of a dark night of rationalism, knowing that there is more afoot than reductionism and materialism and scientism with their false certainties provide. Yet how can we articulate that vision, having been raised in these -isms of late modernity? Poetry is Guite's answer. In this book, he discusses how poetry, with its fraught edges of language and human experience, its deployment of symbol and metaphor and juxtaposition, brings us into contact with the transcendent God and provides a medium for expressing those realities glimpsed at the corners of our vision that are almost inexpressible in modernist terms, realities, as I would express it, embodied in liturgy and the mystical. Here, the medium for this theological expression and outlet for realities beyond the ken of man is the poetic. After setting up the problem of late modernity and postmodernism's failure to solve or address the problem with any success, he takes us into the realm of imagination, of poetry, weaving in a few poems along the way. An extended discussion of two wonderful poems ensues -- 'The Rain Stick' by Seamus Heaney, and 'Prayer (1)' by George Herbert. Here we see how language plays upon us and how the created world can be a window into eternity. Then the methodology of reading poetry is brought forth, a methodology we should all use, whether reading theologically or not. Guite cites five ways of reading: 1. Tasting the Words 2. Echo and Counterpoint 3. Images and Allusion 4. Ambiguity and Ambivalence 5. Perspective and Paradox Re-read each poem seeking after all of these. The main body of the book is then arranged chronologically from The Dream of the Rood, a poem which I love, to Seamus Heaney, my appreciation of whom is growing. And that's not a backhanded compliment, but a sincere enjoyment of a modern poet (rare for me). The poets along the way are Shakespeare, Sir John Davies, John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughn, John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, and Geoffrey Hill. Not all of these men are Christians -- Hardy, Larkin, and Hill are explicitly not. Guite's treatment of them is sensitive and eloquent, showing how the honesty of these poets allows for the real life fissures in any belief, including unbelief. And not all of the poems are explicitly Christian, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. Reflecting and refracting throughout the book is the image from 'The Rain Stick' of glimpsing eternity through the ear of a raindrop. And, from the arrival of Sir John Davies, an important theme of Faith, Hope and Poetry is the inner person, the microcosm (incidentally, an idea originally imaged forth by St Maximos the Confessor in the 600s), and how, for all its subtleties, physical science can never penetrate the human soul. Know yourself -- but this is not achieved by science. A third major contributor, and possibility the theorist who gave rise to so much of this, is S. T. Coleridge and his philosophy of poetry and symbol. Coleridge is important, for he is the first of these poets writing after the Enlightenment (Endarkenment). He believes that God, as Creator, is writ upon creation in a real yet subtle way. Indeed, symbols are not simply one thing standing for another. No, symbols are pathways from one thing to another. They bridge the gap between apparently divergent realities, human and animal, God and creation, nature and supernature. This, I observe, is not dissimilar from much of the theology of icons in St John of Damascus or, more recently, Pavel Florensky. There are many great insights in this book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to come to poetry and to theology with fresh eyes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book is beautiful. This book is brilliant. Before I read this book, I did not know that I was stuck in a valley, able to see only my own little piece of time and space, thoroughly isolated by the ideas of my own time and unable to see how these ideas were a product of all the history of writing and thinking that have gone before me. Malcolm Guite--priest, poet, scholar, and musician--beckoned me on a journey by explaining in the introduction the post-enlightenment split between rational and i This book is beautiful. This book is brilliant. Before I read this book, I did not know that I was stuck in a valley, able to see only my own little piece of time and space, thoroughly isolated by the ideas of my own time and unable to see how these ideas were a product of all the history of writing and thinking that have gone before me. Malcolm Guite--priest, poet, scholar, and musician--beckoned me on a journey by explaining in the introduction the post-enlightenment split between rational and imaginative thought, which put the humanities at risk of seeming silly and obsolete. I'm one of many pilgrims to walk this planet who've found the humanities to be vital and life-giving, but I've never known how to defend my love for them against the rational rows of numbers and facts that are given so much credit today. And, of course, Guite uses poetry as the foundation of his thesis, focusing on a poem by Heaney which marvels at the rain stick and how a pipe of dried seeds can produce the sounds of lush water. This seeming paradox is referenced at every stage of the journey through Faith, Hope and Poetry. Fortunately for me, Guite is an excellent tour guide out of my own shadowed valley and on to the mountain top where I can now see the lay of the land that surrounds me. Guite uses each chapter to heal the rift between reason and imagination by showing imaginative powers to be not just equal to but perhaps even superior to dead, inanimate, and shallow materialist explanations for the world. Each chapter catalogs the depths of beauty and meaning of poetry's most popular and enduring symbols (such as light and water) as Guite ushers in historical poets to express his gently unfolding thesis. By the end, he has skillfully unwound centuries of poetry chronologically while simultaneously weaving together the many complex ways different poets have used the same symbols across time and space. All of this serves to prove his thesis that imaginative powers are indeed necessary to understand the world. By the time I reached the mountaintop, I could see exactly what he saw and I agreed with every word. This book is thorough and self-contained, and yet its ideas reach out to every poem everywhere. I'm at a loss to express how deeply this book moved me and how completely it transformed the way I think. Guite has given me confidence in the absolute necessity of poetry to hold together the seemingly disparate and to reveal the seemingly unknowable. It isn't until the last page of the book that Guite finally comes out and says it: "A study of poetic imagination turns out to be a form of theology." I will read this book again. The question is how long I'll be able to wait to do it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This is one of the best books on this fast expanding field of theology and the arts. It is so many things: a profound work of theology, a beautiful introduction to poetry, and a deeply devotional work. This really deserves to become a spiritual classic. Malcolm brings his fine theological mind to bear on one of his great loves, poetry (the others being blues music, big motorbikes, and conversation). The result is the best book I have read in a long time. If you have any interest in theology, poe This is one of the best books on this fast expanding field of theology and the arts. It is so many things: a profound work of theology, a beautiful introduction to poetry, and a deeply devotional work. This really deserves to become a spiritual classic. Malcolm brings his fine theological mind to bear on one of his great loves, poetry (the others being blues music, big motorbikes, and conversation). The result is the best book I have read in a long time. If you have any interest in theology, poetry, or life read it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Poetreehugger

    Imagine being freed to consider the imagination as a real and valid and constructive method, a usable tool, as is science for example, in the pursuit, dissemination, and enjoyment of knowledge. Or another way of knowing. Anyway, a lot in this book struck a chord that resonated and continues to resonate in a way that feels like truth. I am moved and comforted by what I learned here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Made me want to return to school and delve into the study of poetry.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jules Evans

    This is a great book. Check out his talks on YouTube too.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    It's tough fairly judging a book when you think it's going to be something entirely different from what it actually is. I thought from the book description and it's title that it was going to be a treatise on . . . well . . . the relationship between faith, poetry, and theology. Instead, Guite presents a series of well-ordered, thoughtfully-developed essays on a number of poets who explore issues of faith through their poetry. This is admittedly a wonderful collection of essays, but I'm still di It's tough fairly judging a book when you think it's going to be something entirely different from what it actually is. I thought from the book description and it's title that it was going to be a treatise on . . . well . . . the relationship between faith, poetry, and theology. Instead, Guite presents a series of well-ordered, thoughtfully-developed essays on a number of poets who explore issues of faith through their poetry. This is admittedly a wonderful collection of essays, but I'm still disappointed it wasn't quite what I expected, because I would absolutely *love* to hear Guite's perspective on faith, poetry, and theology without just hearing it "slant" through his commentary on these other works. But maybe that's his point: the best way to understand something like the power of the imagination is through art (by reading his published poems and by studying the poems of others) rather than just speaking abstractly about these matters. As for the essays themselves, they all seemed about equal in their quality, but I found each one to be interesting only in proportion to my interest in the poets themselves: -Favorite chapters: 1 (The Dream of the Rood), 4 (Milton and Herbert), 5 (Vaughan and Milton), 7 (Hardy, Larkin, and Hill) -Least favorite chapters: 2 (Shakespeare), 3 (Davies), 6 (Coleridge), 8 (Heaney)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben McFarland

    Years ago I read Break Blow Burn by Camille Paglia, and I think it's taken about a decade to find a book like that, and even better. Malcolm Guite has the same strategy as Paglia: step through history reading excerpts from poems. But Guite's findings are more meaningful to me (and I don't have to put up with things like Paglia pushing Revenge of the Sith as an incredible artistic vision). Also, Guite introduced me to poets I never heard of but who nonetheless spoke to me as if they were living a Years ago I read Break Blow Burn by Camille Paglia, and I think it's taken about a decade to find a book like that, and even better. Malcolm Guite has the same strategy as Paglia: step through history reading excerpts from poems. But Guite's findings are more meaningful to me (and I don't have to put up with things like Paglia pushing Revenge of the Sith as an incredible artistic vision). Also, Guite introduced me to poets I never heard of but who nonetheless spoke to me as if they were living around the corner from me. John Davies is the best surprise, who may eventually become one of my favorite poets. Of course, the Coleridge chapter is fantastic and somehow as illuminating as Guite's full-length work on the Rime. Finally, Guite brings it into the present day by bringing a depth to Seamus Heaney I never knew, and introducing me to Geoffrey Hill's Lachrimae Amantis, a poem that immediately sank deep into my heart. So, yeah, this is a perfect book for the Christian who wants to know more about poetry.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jason Clarke

    Great book - stimulating on the theology of imagination wonderfully illustrated in the work of poets ancient & modern. Guite is a wonderful teacher - he opened up both poets I was familiar with and others about whom I knew little. The book bought together a whole host of half baked thoughts I had about imagination, epistemology, art. One of those books I will come back to many times

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I haven't read poetry in so many years. In many ways, Malcolm Guite was a helpful guide to show the beautiful opportunities for imagination and knowing God- "poetry as prayers." Still bits that went over my head, but I promise to return to this book as I develop a deeper appreciation for this genre. Already, I know my life has been more greatly enriched on this journey. I haven't read poetry in so many years. In many ways, Malcolm Guite was a helpful guide to show the beautiful opportunities for imagination and knowing God- "poetry as prayers." Still bits that went over my head, but I promise to return to this book as I develop a deeper appreciation for this genre. Already, I know my life has been more greatly enriched on this journey.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Drew

    Amazing and of significant impact on my thinking!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    Wonderful!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan Lawler

    Romanticism’s Wager on Transcendence On the positive side, this book is a superb presentation of Romantic philosophy and its elusive corollary the "creative imagination" especially as propounded by Samuel Coleridge. On the negative side, the author does not engage the fundamental deficiencies of Romantic philosophy that led to its demise two centuries ago. Romanticism could not deliver on its promise of a spiritual realm beyond the material universe we observe. The Romantics, like the Modernists Romanticism’s Wager on Transcendence On the positive side, this book is a superb presentation of Romantic philosophy and its elusive corollary the "creative imagination" especially as propounded by Samuel Coleridge. On the negative side, the author does not engage the fundamental deficiencies of Romantic philosophy that led to its demise two centuries ago. Romanticism could not deliver on its promise of a spiritual realm beyond the material universe we observe. The Romantics, like the Modernists before them, came to despair of objective truth and ultimate meaning in life. The scientists' response was to diminish man to a collection of atoms while the Romantics sought to ennoble and even deify him. Where Modernism made the scientist's reason the ultimate arbiter of Truth, Romanticism vested that function in the poet's imagination. For the poet, the phenomena of the natural world form a symbolic language that, when properly interpreted by the creative imagination, reveals hidden truths about man's inner nature and the mind of God itself. (107.) The poetic imagination is "truth-bearing" and gives us "our only possible apprehension of the Kingdom of God." (13-14.) The poet's access to the spiritual realm is through the imagination. The poet observes the natural world and, with the power of creative imagination, transforms an image from nature into a metaphor for an unseen spirit realm. In Romanticism, there is no objective spiritual reality that can be directly perceived or experienced. All we can do is hope that there is a spiritual reality based upon the poet’s ability to create metaphors about it. That is Romanticism's "wager on transcendence." But the author lets the cat out of the bag when he states that the wager on transcendence "is in fact a wager on God’s immanence." (61.) In other words, Romanticism seeks to transform the transcendent God who is other than ourselves into a wholly immanent God, which is man himself, or at least some men, i.e., the poets. Once you turn man into the immanent God among us, you no longer need a transcendent God. That is essentially the teaching of Anthroposophy and, not surprisingly, the author lauds the anthroposophist Owen Barfield as a "great thinker" and frequently cites him as an authority on the transfiguration of man. For Barfield, the history of the universe is the story of Absolute Mind becoming conscious of itself through man. We are now on the cusp of man's ultimate evolutionary destiny as he becomes consciously aware of the wholly immanent God within his sub-conscious mind. Though man becomes the creator of all meaning, not all men are creatively equal. We must look to the poets, like Coleridge, who open pathways to their sub-conscious minds and draw out the wisdom of the ages which they swathe in magic combinations of words that reveal hidden truths to those with ears to hear and eyes to see. See, R. J. Reilly's Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien, which the author here describes as an excellent book. Reilly extolled Barfield's Anthroposophism and considered fellow Inklings Tolkien, Lewis and Williams too timid in their Christian belief in a God who is both immanent and transcendent. Reilly whole-heartedly endorsed Barfield's "radical immanence" which "frightens most of us: we do not want to be God." (Romantic Religion at 225.) But the daring poets rush in where even angels fear to tread. Coleridge described the creative power within as "a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM" and poet-philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, presaging Reilly, wrote, "The artist is become a creator God." If the world was to be re-enchanted with meaning and "apparelled in celestial light," the almighty poets must first create then place it there. As Coleridge penned, "Ah! From the soul itself must issue forth; A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud; Enveloping the Earth--" Man is God, the autonomous Creator of life's meaning. That was Romanticism's ultimate wager, but it lost that bet centuries ago. The author, who fancies himself among the poets and relishes their exalted position as the sole creators and tellers of Truth, overlooks Romanticism's fatal flaws and offers nothing in this book to warrant its revival.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    [Reviewed April 2015] This is a fascination collection of essays/meditations on some key Christian (and non-Christian) poets and poems stretching from the Dream of the Rood through Herbert, Donne and Milton and into the modern day. At times it also feels like a dialogue with Seamus Heaney, whose poem The Rain Stick acts as a companion to Guite's thought throughout the book. The separate chapters are all nicely brought into unity through judicious cross-referencing and allusion. At the heart of t [Reviewed April 2015] This is a fascination collection of essays/meditations on some key Christian (and non-Christian) poets and poems stretching from the Dream of the Rood through Herbert, Donne and Milton and into the modern day. At times it also feels like a dialogue with Seamus Heaney, whose poem The Rain Stick acts as a companion to Guite's thought throughout the book. The separate chapters are all nicely brought into unity through judicious cross-referencing and allusion. At the heart of the book is the question of epistemology and the need both to comprehend and apprehend the world and our experience of it. A book that certainly deserves a re-reading and one that inspires me to go back to some well-known poets as well as to explore others of whom I have very little knowledge. One tiny criticism would be that there seemed in my mind a chapter missing on the later Nineteenth Century poets - Tennyson and Manley Hopkins in particular. [added after re-reading in July 2017] - I got much more out of this book returning to it after a three month sabbatical during which time I read little other than poetry and poetry criticism. This book stands out with its lucidity and intelligence. The chapter on Shakespeare I particularly enjoyed re-reading, especially his discussion on the Tempest. It is obviously a selection of other writings or lectures (betrayed every now and then by some less than assiduous editing) hence, I suspect, the absence of the Nineteenth Century. A few queries (I hesitate to say criticism) - Milton didn't coin the phrase "darkling" as it appears in King Lear, though I don't deny the truth that when Keats and Hardy used the word they looked back to Milton (though whether Arnold did, I'm not so sure: "Out went the candle and we were left darkling seems to fit better in the context of Dover Beach"). I would also, given Milton's unitarian and Arian tendencies, not hold him up as a defender of Trinitarian Theology. Also, I understand that Henry Vaughan was a keen stargazer and that Departed Friends is written from the perspective of staring into the night sky. If that's true then it's a pity that Malcolm Guite didn't pick up on it, especially as it would have connected well with Heaney's poetry later in the book. But these are minor criticisms in what is a quite superb study of poetry and faith.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    I struggle to appreciate poetry but this book has opened my eyes to the glories to be mined in its depths. While I have only read a few selections at this point (Introduction, chapter 1 on the Dream of the Rood, and chapter 3 on Sir John Davies), I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from what I have read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A beautifully written and remarkably incisive study of poetry and the contributions it has to make -- not only to theology, but to our understanding of human knowing as well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Transcendent. Probably the best 'secondary source' book I've read. I would have gladly given it ten stars. Transcendent. Probably the best 'secondary source' book I've read. I would have gladly given it ten stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    One of the finest books I've read on poetry and the imagination. One of the finest books I've read on poetry and the imagination.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Michael Ward's review here. Michael Ward's review here.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kimbol Soques

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rhoda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Ferreira

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Clarkson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

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