Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Poetry Review

Just got the winter 2008 Poetry Review the UK Poetry Society publication. As with other similar magazines I enjoy the articles and reviews as much as the poems. It does have three poems from Ruth Padel's book of poem on Darwin which I wrote about on Friday.

There is a link on the website to some (very little in fact) free sample content. However it does contain an article from a three article feature in the magazine called The ghost in the machine which deals with the relationship between poetry and religion. You can read Poetry In A Post-Secular Age by poet Michael Symmons Roberts here.

He speaks of the changes in recent times, "Christianity and Islam are growing very rapidly throughout the developing world, and a recent report placed the numbers of atheists worldwide at three per cent and falling"; "in the last few years a number of philosophers and sociologists have coined the term post secular to describe our current condition."

Another article is by Christian Wyman US poet and editor of Poetry magazine. He suggests that poetry can at times reveal not the extraordinary within the ordinary but the reality which is larger and more complex than we are able to percieve. He ends by disagreeing fundamentally with Yeats' choosing "perfection of the life, or of the work" - "these things - art and life, or thought and life - are utterly, fatally, and sometimes savingly entwined".

The danger when writing about religion and poetry or religion in poetry is ending up saying something essentially meaningless like "Poetry is religion" or "Religion is poetry" on the basis that poetry looks beyond the ordinary. This won't do I think. You could say the same thing about prose and art.

There has always been a difficulty with anthologies of "Religious poetry", the various titles reveal the problems - The Penguin Book of Religious Verse, The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse; American Religious Poems: An Anthology; Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse; The Poetry of Piety, an Annotated Anthology of Christian Poetry etc. Roberts says he has been asked to compile an anthology but is waiting to find a suitable title.

The three articles are thought provoking. In the third poet John Whitworth points out that while
most American religious poetry is devout most British religious poetry is not about doctrine but about a hope. The magazine also contains a review of the third book of poetry, Headwaters, by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

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