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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Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

13 thoughts on “religious texts as love poetry?”

    1. 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

  1. 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 :-)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. Absolutely – would much appreciate it. Have been rooting about here – 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!

  4. 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.

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