The Gospels in Our Image; An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts

By Dan Clendenin

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David Curzon, editor, The Gospels in Our Image; An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995), 279pp.

When I launched this Journey with Jesus webzine in 2004, one of the biggest surprises to me was how popular our poetry features were. Today our poetry archive features 340 poems by 145 writers. So, even though this book is dated, it’s perfect for our readership. This anthology collects over 150 poems that are based on the four gospels. It’s a companion volume to Curzon’s earlier book Modern Poems on the Bible: An Anthology (1993) that collected 170 poems based upon the Hebrew Bible.

After a thirty-page introduction, the poems follow the major events and teachings in the life of Christ, beginning with the annunciation, the nativity, the magi, etc., then proceeding through poems on selected miracles like the wedding at Cana, teachings like the Sermon on the Mount, and parables like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. The final poems are on the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the crucifixion and resurrection.

The poems here are contemporary (Milosz, Rilke, Eliot, Plath, etc.), as the title indicates, so there are no older favorites here like Donne, Herbert or Hopkins. Some of the poems are devotional, others are skeptical. Curzon includes the gospel text under consideration, which is then followed by the poems on the text. The book concludes with some minimal notes about the poems, an index of the poets (with their dates and nationalities), and an index of titles.

For poetry anthologies that are both similar and yet different to this volume, see my reviews of Harold Bloom and Jesse Zuba, editors, American Religious Poems, An Anthology (New York: The Library of America, 2006), that collects 900 (!) poems; Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, editors, Before the Door of God; An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); the book cited by Curzon, Robert Atwan and Laurance Wieder, editors, Chapters into Verse: Poetry in English Inspired by the Bible (Oxford, 1993); and numerous other volumes of poetry in our JwJ archive.

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