Peter Leithart once said in an issue of Credenda/ Agenda: “We are devotees of the Word, people of the book. Yet we can’t write stories or poetry. This is a scandal.” It is a scandal! And, while stories get some attention, poetry rarely does. So I’d like to take this opportunity to call to mind theological poets ranging through history up to the times of the mid-20th century. Let’s read them, learn from them, and develop our own!
Caveat: The list will be pretty heavy on English-speakers since poetry rarely translates. I’ll mark otherwise where I am able.
Theological Poets through the Mid-20th Century
- William Langland (14th-century Englishman!)
- Dante Alighieri (Italian)
- John Donne
- George Herbert
- Henry Vaughan (Welsh)
- John Milton
- Thomas Traherne
- Gerard Manley Hopkins
- Francis Thompson
- Jacobus Revius (Dutch)
- TS Eliot
- Anne Bradstreet
- Christina Rossetti
- GK Chesterton
- RS Thomas
Collections to Consider
- A Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry in English from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century
- The Soul in Paraphrase: A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poetry
Martin Luther’s Poetry
Lutheran Poetry Books or Related Topics*
- Journey to Heaven: Poems for All Occasions by Esther A. Schumann, published by the South Wisconsin District Office of the LCMS, 1977.
- Poetry and Parental Bereavement in Early Modern Lutheran Germany by Anna Linton
- Living Wellsprings: The Hymns, Songs, and Poems of N.F.S. Grundtvig. I think he got a bit more orthodox later in life?
- Simil: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, ed. by Mark Patrick Odland
- To Dance in the Spirit by Dorothy Hamann — may be Lutheran
- To Write a Verse or Two: An Analysis of Lutheran Doctrine in the Poetry of George Herbert by Adriane Dorr Heins.
- Who Am I? Bonhoeffer’s Theology Through His Poetry, ed. by Bernd Wannenwetsch
- The Words by Margo T. Rose.
* By all means, check the authors listed above for published books of poetry. Otherwise, some of these Lutheran poetic finds are pretty pricey. You might want to Interlibrary loan!
Living Lutheran Theological Poets