Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems chosen and introduced by Sister Wendy Beckett, fulfills a long-felt need of mine: a book of poetry that deals with topics related to the Christian faith without being saccharine on the one hand or ungodly on the other. Instead, to quote Sister Wendy,
Thankfully, she fulfills this requirement with much the same candor and depth that she did with her BBC television series on art. The book is divided into poems of Longing, Wonder, A Lighter Spirit, The Heavy Heart, Courage, Sorrow, Faith, Hope, Love, and Prayer. While all the poems are great, and will inspire on different occasions, there are a few that stand out for me after a first reading. Under Courage is Door by Robert Pinsky. While perhaps this is a sideways nod to Aldous Huxley’s famous book, Doors of Perception, it nonetheless covers interesting ground, as most Pinsky poetry does. One stanza in particular captures the way doors function as a metaphor for salvation.
A Broken Image, Thomas Blackburn’s poem in the section on Faith, is about a couple coming across a broken cross while hiking in the Alps, and how they take it home with them. The profound meaning of the cross, a symbol of salvation for humanity, and its representation of the love God has for each of us, is explored by the poet, as represented by the lines
Finally, there is Prayer, by John Burnside, ends the collection. Its line “Gold in the seams of my hands” effectively sums up the nature of the collection, our relationship with God, and the subject of the poem.
There are many others that are worth noting: Nativity Poem by Joseph Brodsky, The Snow Village by Glyn Maxwell, This Lunar Beauty by W. H. Auden. At $3.99, I encourage you to invest in poems whose “significance does not have to be puzzled out, but comes to us with an immediacy and a power that are the ultimate proof of what poetry can be.”