The poet Dana Gioia once asked in a book of this title, “Can Poetry Matter?” That question of course begs another question: matter in what ways? We may read poetry for any number of reasons, but this class considers how poetry nurtures, and enriches, our spiritual lives. By our close reading of poems together from outstanding poets of the last 100 years, we will explore the many ways that poetry inspires us to comprehend our relationships with God, each other, and ourselves with fresh insight. Whether you are an avid or an occasional reader of poetry, we will dig deeper into how poems work, while encountering the work poems do in us as people who aspire, and struggle, to experience a more profound living faith.
There is no specific background in literature required or expected. The course materials consist mainly of poems with some light secondary material to enhance our reading experience, all of which will be provided by PDFs. Topics will include reading the Bible through poetry, poetry and the contemplation of core beliefs, poetry and struggles with faith, and poetry and devotion to social justice.
We have three main objectives for the course:
1. To illuminate the many diverse facets of faith that our poems ask us to contemplate, including those we may not have considered.
(NB: Although religious faith of any kind is enriched by these works, most of our poets express a Judeo-Christian sensibility.)
2. To develop skills in reading poems ‘in their own terms’ and as a form of devotional practice.
3. To consider how ‘poets of faith’ in modernity and late-modernity help us to comprehend present challenges to religious faith and devotion.