religious texts as love poetry?

I started off this NaPo intending to write 30 prayers and charms. The prayer bit sort of took over and as I wrote, I began thinking more and more about relations with the divine (however defined) and the imperatives and texture that go into those relations. I recently hit something of a wall with the prayer-writing and so have decided instead to read religious texts, with an emphasis on finding text that strikes me at the same time as poetry. (Read them with voice, I mean – which is not at all the same thing as reading them with one’s head.)

Starting with what is most familiar to me seemed like a good idea. I was raised a Christian in the Anglican tradition and, text-wise, just happen to be most familiar with (and fond of from a poetry perspective) the King James Version of the Bible. I noted in a blog post yesterday that one thing I did realize while thinking about writing prayers is how similar to a (dysfunctional, co-dependent..?) romantic relationship one’s relationship with the divine can be, which made starting with the KJV version of the Song of Songs an immediate no-brainer. I’ve posted the first half of the Song at Whale Sound today (just under 10 minutes worth of audio), and may or may not get to the other half. Partly because I also want to research and voice religious texts from other traditions that approach the divine in roughly similar fashion — ie essentially as love poetry, in whatever form.

I’d be grateful for any suggestions others may have for any texts, from any and all religious traditions.

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13 thoughts on “religious texts as love poetry?

  1. [...] ‘Song of Solomon’ In read by Nic Sebastian on 04/16/2011 at 07:17 (Background to this posting here.) [...]

  2. Maureen says:

    See Daniel Ladinsky’s “Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West”. It’s one of my favorite collections.

    • Hey Maureen – thanks for the recommendation. I’m thinking these are poems written by poets about their relationship with the divine. That’s of interest to me as well, but for this particular exercise I was looking for actual religious text that falls into the ‘love poetry’ category – a la Song of Songs. I’m still looking! Thanks again, Nic

  3. Eva says:

    While not technically a religious text, much of Rumi’s poetry falls into this category, I think.

  4. dale says:

    My teacher often refers to the stories of Milarepa and Marpa, noting that in human terms you’d call this a very dysfunctional relationship. E.g. Marpa tells Milarepa to build a tower, before he’ll consent to be his teacher. Milarepa spends weeks building a stone tower with his hands. Marpa comes to look at it, points to one stone on the bottom course, and says — “that one’s wrong. You’ll have to take this down and build it again.” So Milarepa does. And so on and on and on. Clearly abusive :-)

  5. A friend of mine in Basel wrote his Master’s thesis years ago on the relationship between poems and prayers. He once gave a paper on the issue in Scotland, for which I found an abstract in a long PDF of abstracts from the conference. In case you’re interested in reading the abstract, I can send it to you.

  6. I’m thinking that many Hindu texts fall into this category. I could ask my Hindu friend, if that falls into the realm of your interest. I’m an ecumenical gal, but Hinduism is still the one faith that I know least.

    • Absolutely – would much appreciate it. Have been rooting about here http://www.sacred-texts.com/ – where just about every sacred text from every tradition seems to be represented, but it’s rather needle-in-a-haystacky starting from the outside without a clue where to begin. Thanks for stopping by, Kristin!

  7. Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross, still within Christianity, is definitely a love poem about relationship with the divine. I read it in a new translation by Mirabai Starr. That translator has also studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, so seeking her out might lead to some more stuff.

  8. Yes! St. John of the Cross and Rilke are the two who first come to mind for writing love poems to God , powerful stuff. I’ll check out Mirabai Starr. Thanks, Nic

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