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Inauguration puts poetry back in the spotlight

Here’s a list of Christian poets for the newly interested


American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington on Jan. 20. Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky

Inauguration puts poetry back in the spotlight

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet from Los Angeles, gained 2 million Instagram followers in one day after reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the presidential inauguration last week, according to BuzzFeed News. Two of her books, neither of which has been published yet, shot to the top of Amazon’s charts. And Google announced that “Amanda Gorman,” “poet laureate,” and “The Hill We Climb” were among the top five trending searches in the day after the inauguration.

“I’m dying!” she shouted gleefully in an Instagram story she posted after learning that Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical Hamilton and one of Gorman’s idols, had tweeted her praises.

Gorman beat young poets from around the country in a contest to become the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. The Library of Congress helps sponsor the annual award, which was started by the nonprofit Urban Word NYC. The librarian of Congress separately selects a national poet laureate annually from among established American writers: Joy Harjo, a Native American poet from Oklahoma, currently holds the role.

Gorman wrote her poem after watching news about the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She describes herself as a social justice activist, and her poem at times recycles liberal visions of utopia and state-sponsored salvation. It also captures the rapture of American dreams realized and the challenge of building peace and prosperity for future generations.

“She captured a moment perfectly, her eyes were wide open,” Patrick Washington, a poet who works with other youth poets in the Washington area, told WUSA-TV. “And then immediately my phone started ringing, I started getting text messages. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, so is that your friend? Is that your poet laureate?’”

As interest in poetry spikes, Christians wanting to explore the genre have many places to turn. Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry (2016) shows how poetry can help deal with suffering. Through her own poems and those of others, she offers a gentle introduction to poetry for those unfamiliar with the genre.

Luci Shaw, a graduate of Wheaton College and writer-in-residence at Regent College, has written a dozen books of poetry. Many of her poems revel in the natural world. Her most recent collection, The Generosity, came out last year.

Dana Gioia, former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, is a practicing Catholic with five collections of poetry and other nonfiction books. His 99 Poems: New and Collected won the Poet’s Prize in 2018.

Morning Song: Poems for New Parents (2011), edited by Susan Todd and Carol Purington, a WORLD reader, includes poems from all over that “speak to the inner life of mothers and fathers.” The poems give us language and new ways to think about the common human experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, parenting, and raising children.


Lynde Langdon

Lynde is editor of WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Lynde resides with her family in Wichita, Kan.

@lmlangdon


Susan Olasky

Susan is a book reviewer, story coach, feature writer, and editor for WORLD. She has authored eight historical novels for children and teaches twice a year at World Journalism Institute. Susan resides with her husband, Marvin, in Austin, Texas.

@susanolasky

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Russell in Japan

Thanks for these recommendations. I'd also like to add poet Malcolm Guite to the list. His Sounding the Seasons offers 70 sonnets for the Christian calendar, while After Prayer includes sonnets based on George Herbert's poem 'Prayer' along with a number of meditative poems with Christian themes. 

TOAT1085

My husband and I enjoy Wendell Berry, too. Berry's This Day and A Timbered Choir are collections of what Berry calls his Sabbath Poems. We are now reading through Leland Ryken's The Soul in Paraphrase: A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poems. With a commentary on each poem, this is a good book for newcomers to poetry. The One Year Book of Poetry compiled by Philip Comfort and Daniel Partner is a beautiful collection of classic Christian poems with devotional readings.   ~Ruth Oates