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Poetry & the Bible

imageFor the last 20 years, April has been designated National Poetry Month. Any reader of this blog will know that I have an interest in poetry and seek to indicate its value for pastoral ministry. In fact, I hope to one day edit a volume on the value of poetry in pastoral ministry.
In honor of National Poetry Month, I want to draw attention to three works which highlight the connection between poetry and the Bible.

The Poets’ Book of Psalms, edited by Laurance Wieder, provides a poetic rendering of every Psalm drawing from poets from the 16th to the 20th century. The quality of the poetry varies, but it is fascinating to see these renderings from across five centuries. It is a reminder that the Psalter has been not only the bedrock of Christian worship but also the fountainhead of much of Western poetry.

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The other two works-  The Poetic Bible, compiled by Colin Duriez and Chapters into Verse (2 vols.), edited by Robert Atwan and Laurance Wieder- have a similar premise: compiling poems in English that arise from every section of the Bible. Both of these works draw from poems across several centuries. Since Chapters into Verse has two volumes it of course can be more comprehensive. Volume one covers the Old Testament, and volume two covers the New Testament. I particularly like Duriez’s introduction with his contemplation of the connection between the poetic and prosaic and how the Bible encourages symbolic thought.

Each of these volumes makes its own contribution, and I enjoy dipping into them when studying a specific potion of Scripture to see if there is a poem connected to my text. It is enriching to see how people across the ages have expressed these passages in verse.

I commend these to you in an age which has largely lost its poetry. We do well to reclaim this gift which God saw fit to use extensively in the Scriptures. Reawakening the poetic will help us better understand, proclaim and apply these Scriptures and, it seems to me, probably help us to grow towards being more fully human.

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