A wide range of faiths–A review of “A God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith”

Note: Before I started reviewing on my own blog, I reviewed books on Examiner.com. Now that it is ceasing to publish, I am moving my reviews to this site.

In this collection of essay-interviews, editors Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler discuss faith with 19 contemporary poets. A God in the House is thus not a unified collection but rather a wide-ranging analysis of the various faiths held by poets writing today. Kaminsky and Towler do a fine job of finding poets from many different faith traditions. Jewish, Catholic, Amish, Native American, Islamic and many more traditions are represented in these essays. Grace Paley even talks about faith from an atheist point of view.

Kaminsky and Towler communicated with these poets directly, sometimes in-person and other times via written word. Though their questions are not included, these essays often feel guided by questions, and so the hand of the editors is both hidden and clear. Still, they allow the poets to express themselves in whatever way they felt they would like to talk about their faith. Some speak extensively on their faith tradition, such as Jane Hirschfield does when discussing Zen. Others prefer to focus on poetry–their own and that of others–as a way of expressing the wonders of faith.

Each essay ends with a poem by the poet that shows how each deals with faith matters in their work. While a single poem is not enough to give anyone a good sense of a poet’s work, the selections balance with the essays very well. Overall, this is a thoughtful collection that would be valued by anyone who knows and loves contemporary poetry.

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