Edwin Mims published The Christ of the Poets, an examination of images of Christ in English and American poetry, more than 50 years ago. The subject has not been touched by critics since that time, so Peggy Rosenthal's book, which attempts to fill in the gaps of a half century and also to reflect current multicultural interests, deserves special commendation.
“For decades there has been a premium on language as subject,” says poet Christian Wiman. But recently poets are “trying to find some way of speaking of ‘ultimate things’ with some sort of credibility.”
Likely no culture has been so ignorant and contemptuous of place as is contemporary industrialized society. We may not even qualify as a culture, since that word generally connotes a form of social organization that connects people and places through time. By that criterion, industrialized society fails miserably.
It’s almost a job requirement for poets: accept the fact of being far removed from mainstream artistic culture. We poets are happy—ecstatic, really—to cultivate a few hundred thoughtful readers, and we have developed a thick skin toward the widely repeated remark that more people today write poetry than read it.
In a time when people are profoundly confused about fundamental identity issues and desperately trying to construct life as best they can, it is critical that pastors recover the poetic dimension of their ministries. What the congregation needs is not a strategist to help them form another plan for achieving a desired image of life, but a poet who looks beneath the desperation to recover the mystery of what it means to be made in God’s image.