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During National Poetry Month, I’m on the lookout for Catholic poets who might want a bit of promoting. It’s easy for the dead poets – they are safely in the canon, and people can recommend the best of them knowing others have vetted their work (and that they didn’t do anything too embarassing before they died). Then there are the Poets Who Have Made It – the Dana Gioias, Denise Levertovs, Paul Marianis, Christian Wimans and other truly fine poets who really don’t need publicity. I’m looking for those in the middle, whose poetry I have admired, or who have been highly recommended as up-and-comers.
I don’t have any academic credentials to back up my taste in poetry – just my own response to this or that poem I’ve seen. I do have an aversion to poetry that seems to be mere prose chopped into ‘poetic’ looking lines. I dislike super sappy sweetness and sing-song verse. I prefer poets who seem to be conveying a personal experience – even if of some doctrinal truth, or eternal verity – over those who seem to be looking at experience from the outside and using it as material for a class in poetry. I like to be surprised, blessed, challenged to read it again, or to feel a universal ‘yes’ on entering a poet’s particularity of lived encounter with realities – even small ones. I dislike propaganda intensely – using poetry as a vehicle to preach at me sends your poem right to the bottom of the stack.
I discovered some amateur Catholic poets on CatholicPlanet. From this loooong list, I read at least one poem by every poet – whew! I picked a few I’d like to share, and am investigating whether the poets have books out they’d like to have me buy and give away to my readers. I liked:
A Prayer for Humilty, by Diane Allen who has written some books of stories about Padre Pio, but doesn’t seem to have a book of her poetry out just yet.
Exodus Revisited, by W.H. Smaw who hasn’t a book out.
Annunciation, by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, who has translated Dante and put lots of lovely poetry out for free on Catholic Planet, but doesn’t seem to have a volume of his own work out yet.
So, I’ve ordered some other books by Catholic poets, and the following ones are ready to give away to the first person who asks (simply comment here, or email me: Speaker@CharlotteOstermann.com).
Just ask for your free copy of:
Pavel Chichikov’s So Tell Us, Christ (I link here to the books on Amazon just so you can see them, but I will mail you the free copy myself).
Kathryn Mulderink’s To Sing You Must Exhale
Ruth Asch’s Reflections
I like a number of poems already in each of these books. Particularly Chichikov’s Bring Us Up, It Is Near, and As From My Emptiness; Mulderink’s Signals and Didymus; and Asch’s Baptism by Fire and End of a Day. I hope you’ll enjoy these poems and have the poets’ names in your hearts as you pray for artists now and then.
I’m still looking. Do you have favorites? I found Mark Shea recommending Bruce Newman and discovered Philip Kolin somewhere in all my searching. I’ve ordered books of poetry by Christopher Kelder, Sarah de Nordwall and Kevin Casey to give you. I should note that I’ve ordered my own copy, too, of each of these!
Is anyone out there teaching poetry? I have two copies of Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry to give away that would be lovely for a survey. They include some deads (Merton, Wojtyla), some stars (Mariani, Gioia), and some up-and-comers, for which I thank the editors, David Craig (who once, in an online poetry workshop, said he’d like to have written a couple of the lines in my poem John’s Song…just sayin’) and Janet McCann.
Naturally, my offer still stands to send up to ten copies of my own A Destiny to Burn to anyone who asks. Bless you for reading one and giving away the others with a word about how critically important poetry is for human being!
One final word: This giveaway will appear in an upcoming update of my 25 Ways to Help an Artist: The Art of Low-Cost Philanthropy. The total cost to me will be less than $200, and that counts as “low-cost” in the world of art promotions. I hope you’ll do it too, plus at least 24 other things, to help along the Catholic artists who are giving themselves back to the Church, through the Church to the world, and to other artists and students of art by doing what they do.