A new collection from the best and most prolific poets published in the Christian Century over the past twenty-five years.
The 34 poets whose work appears defy the narcissistic tendencies of so much contemporary poetry. They do not necessarily express a particular orthodoxy, but they do connect with something larger than the self. Theirs is poetry that attempts to revitalize language, especially theological language. It is poetry that attempts to upset the usual modes of expression and offers up new angles of vision, especially in regard to biblical stories. For most of the poets—though not all by any means—Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the Incarnation is the paradigm as poets attempt to enflesh the abstract, make the spirit tangible, and put into words the unsayable. Poets have a way of taking on what utterly cannot be done. And those are the poems that should appear in a journal of religious news and reflection.
The poetic approaches and styles of the work of these poets are immensely varied, from the masterful narratives of Sydney Lea to the finely wrought lyrics of Charles Hughes to the always edgy and surprising poems of Bill Stadick to the most imagistic and prolific work of Luci Shaw to the provocative poems of Christian Wiman. Then there are the superb sonnets of Gracia Grindal and Angela Alaimo O’Donnell and the compelling explorations of the deep spirituality of the everyday that comprise Tania Runyan’s vision.
The poems in the journal often explore biblical themes, doctrinal issues, or theological conundrums. But many of the poems that appear in the Christian Century present human experience or encounters with the natural world that do not seem on the surface “religious” but reveal a deep humanity at the core. What defines all of these poems is a commitment to communicating with readers seeking truth, beauty, and authenticity.
Jill Peláez Baumgaertner received her BA and PhD from Emory University. She taught at Valparaiso University and joined the faculty of Wheaton College in 1980. She is the author of five collections of poetry, including Finding Cuba, an exploration of her Cuban ancestry, and What Cannot Be Fixed. She has also edited a collection of poetry, Imago Dei: Poetry from Christianity and Literature; written a textbook/anthology, Poetry; and published Flannery O’Connor: A Proper Scaring, still in print after thirty years. She was a Fulbright fellow to Spain, served as the poetry editor of The Cresset and First Things and currently serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century. She is also past president of the Conference on Christianity and Literature and is Professor Emerita of English and former Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She has written libretti and lyrics for the music of Carl Schalk, Michael Costello, Richard Hillert, and Michael Gandolfi. She and her husband, Martin, a retired judge, live in Chicago.
"A scintillant, soul-searching garland of poems, where words continually probe and engage with the mystery of the Word. These are voices that you will find yourself coming back to again and again, language capable of encountering the beauty, joy, terror and consolations that are at the very heart of our Christ-haunted, homing existence." —Paul Mariani, author of All That Will Be New: Poems and The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernity
"Beginning with Jill Baumgaertner's insightful and informative Introduction, which includes a fascinating survey of Christian poetry since 1884, Taking Root in the Heart gathers richly varied poems by some of the major Christian poets of the past twenty-five years. As we'd expect, many of the poems reflect on Christian themes. But the delightful surprise is how many engage purely secular scenes or motifs, bringing in just a single 'mercy' or 'pray' or biblical allusion—with the effect of giving us the sense that everything in our lives is imbued with God's presence." —Peggy Rosenthal, author of The Poets' Jesus
"Taking Root in the Heart contains poems that place us, the readers, so firmly in concrete, daily experiences that we not only reflect upon, but feel God’s presence—through the faces of children on a school bus or a letter from a death-row inmate or a conversation with a fellow airline passenger. The divine becomes palpable and immediate when we, along with the personae, watch birds in the backyard, examine an illuminated manuscript or attend a performance in a small 'parka-packed' storefront theatre. What a gift to have all these poets from the Christian Century together in one volume! Their poems sharpen our attention to the ways in which we encounter opportunities for grace in our everyday lives." —Mary Ann B. Miller, founding editor of Presence and professor of English, Caldwell University
"As anthologist, Dr. Baumgaertner is more gardener than florist, and this sumptuous harvest, a selection of exemplars, each in the context of generous registers and range of their poetic voices. Thanks be, is the thing I say, thanks be!" —Thomas Lynch, author of Bone Rosary: New & Selected Poems
"If there's such a thing as a fine arts gallery for poetry, this is it. Here are current voices, lost voices, voices new or beloved, all thoughtfully and lovingly arranged. Baumgaertner, as a curator, is well-familiar with her subjects, gifted with extraordinary sensitivity to their uniqueness. But it's her ear for how they speak to and through one another that makes this curation unforgettable." —Sarah Arthur, Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide