Poetry and Catholic Themes

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell

in Teaching the Tradition

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199795307
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932894 | DOI:
Poetry and Catholic Themes

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Poetry is a literary form especially suited for exploring the religious imagination, calling both poets and readers of poetry to an experience beyond the state of ordinary perception. A number of poems accomplish this task particularly well because they are grounded in certain metaphysical presuppositions that are foundational to Catholicism and resonant with the broader Judeo-Christian tradition. First, creation is grace, albeit deformed by the presence of sin. Second, the physical world is incarnational, embodying the immanence of the God who created it. Third, language possesses a unique power to express divine immanence and transcendence. Fourth, the act of making a poem manifests a primary way in which we are made in God's image. Poems by Dante, Levertov, Hopkins, Heaney, Milosz, and Jacobsen demonstrate the intricate connections between the religious and the artistic impulse. These poets are conversant with the realms of both the sacred and the secular. Consequently through their art they help lead poets and readers alike on the pilgrimage of paradox all human beings are all blessed to take, simultaneously alone and together.

Keywords: poetry; religious impulse; artistic impulse; Denise Levertov; Seamus Heaney; Josephine Jacobsen; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Czeslaw Milosz; metaphysical presuppositions; pilgrimage

Chapter.  9087 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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