Modern and Contemporary Poets of Christian Faith

The following is a partial list of twentieth-century poets who write in some way about their Christian faith.  For some this is an explicit project that explores openly matters of theology and experience.   This includes a variety of denominations -- Catholic (Annie Dillard, Denise Levertov, David Craig), Orthodox (Scott Cairns, Anna Akmatova), mainline Protestant (Mark Jarman), Calvinist (Lionel Basney) and evangelical (Luci Shaw, Calvin Miller). For some this faith could only be called syncretistic--mixing Christianity with Zen (Ed Zahniser, Charles Wright) or Native American spirituality (Louise Erdrich). For others, this faith is more implicit and only eluded to.  For some, such as Wendell Berry, Julia Kasdorf, or Fred Chappell, it is unclear where they presently stand in relationship to the traditional Christian faith.  Others have a clear church affiliation, but only speak of their faith on occasion, such as Donald Davie.

These poets represent a wide variety of political positions: liberal (Daniel Berrigan), radical (Ernesto Cardenal), and conservative (J. Bottum).  Many of these poets famously converted midcourse in life, such as T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden; others, rather late in life, such as John Berryman; and others converted only to later abandon the Church, such as Robert Lowell.  Some of these are more famous for work in others genres, such as the novelists Diane Glancy, Walter Wangerin, or John Updike.

Since students have asked, I have placed an asterick next to some of my personal favorites and bolded the names of the more famous poets of the Modern period.

[For those who would like suggestions as to where to begin, click here for a smaller list.]

Click to go to author's last name or general bibliography category:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Anthologies Topics Reflections Spiritual Practice

Vito Aiuto Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry
Tom Andrews The Brother's Country
The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle
Anna Akhmatova Collected Poems
Sarah Appleton Ladder of the World's Joy
* W.H. Auden Collected Poems
Margaret Avison Collected Poems (3 vols.)
Julianna Baggott This Country of Mothers
Jackie Bartley When Prayer is Far From our Lips
Lionel Basney The Snow Plough Man (Christianity and Literature 50:3)
Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner Leaving Eden
Bruce Bawer Coast to Coast : Poems
Bruce Beasley Signs and Abominations
Summer Mystagogia
The Creation
Daniel Berrigan And the Risen Bread : Selected Poems, 1957-1997
* Wendell Berry The Collected Poems, 1957-1982
A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997
John Berryman Collected Poems 1937-1971
The Dream Songs
James Bertolino New and Selected Poems
John Betjeman Collected Poems
Murray Bodo Song of the Sparrow: Meditations and Poems to Pray By
The Almond Tree Speaks
Bruce Bond The Throats of Narcissus
J. Bottum The Fall & Other Poems
Catharine Savage Brosman The Muscled Truce
Places in the Mind
* George Mackay Brown Selected Poems, 1954-1992
* Scott Cairns Recovered Body
Figures for the Ghost
The Theology of Doubt

Compass of Affection
Ernesto Cardenal Apocalypse, and Other Poems
Cosmic Canticle
Turner Cassity The Destructive Element : New and Selected Poems
Charles Causley Collected Poems 1951-1975
Fred Chappell Spring Garden: New and Collected Poems
Kelly Cherry God’s Loud Hand
Natural Theology
Hazard and Prospect
Michael Chitwood The Weave Room
Paul Christensen Mind the Underworld
Weights and Measures
David Citino The Book of Appassionata: Collected Poems
The Discipline: New and Selected Poems, 1980-1992
Paul Claudel Five Great Odes
Peter Cooley Sacred Conversations
Robert Cording Heavy Grace
What Binds Us to This World
Alfred Corn Stake: Poems, 1972-1992
David Craig Mercy’s Face
The Roof of Heaven
Morri Creech Paper Cathedrals
Andrew Stephen Damick Songs of Time and Season
Kate Daniels Four Testimonies
The Niobe Poems
Donald Davie Collected Poems
To Scorch or Freeze: Poems About the Sacred
William Virgil Davis One Way to Reconstruct the Scene
Winter Light
Peter Davison Breathing Room
The Breaking of the Day
Bruce Dawe Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems, 1954-1992
John F. Deane Toccata and Fugue: New and Selected Poems
Manhandling the Deity
Annie Dillard Tickets for a Prayer Wheel
Mornings Like This
Lynn Domina Corporal Works
Stuart Dybek Brass Knuckles
Michael Edwards To Kindle the Starling
The Magic, Unquiet Body
* Maura Eichner Hope is a Blind Bard
* T.S. Eliot Collected Poems and Plays
Louise Erdrich Jacklight
Baptism of Desire
Jill Alexander Essbaum Heaven
Sybil Estess Seeing the Desert Green
William Everson (Brother Antoninus) The Complete Poems (3 vols.)
B.H. Fairchild The Art of the Lathe
The Arrival of the Future
Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest
Laura Fargas An Animal of the Sixth Day
Robert Fink The Tongues of Men and of Angels
John Finlay Mind and Blood: The Collected Poems
Robert Fitzgerald Spring Shade: Poems 1931-1970
Carolyn Forche Blue Hour
The Angel of History
The Country Between Us
Nigel Forde Fluffy Dice
The Dust Behind the Door
Teaching the Wind Plurals
Madeleine DeFrees Blue Dusk
Spectral Waves
Lise Goett Waiting for the Paraclete
*Dana Gioia Daily Horoscope
Interrogations at Noon
The Gods of Winter
Margaret Gibson Earth Elegy: New and Selected Poems
Icon and Evidence: Poems
Signs (1979)
Long Walks in the Afternoon (1982)
Memories of the Future: The Daybooks of Tina Modotti
Out in the Open
The Vigil: A Poem in Four Voices (1993)
Autumn Grasses
One Body
Diane Glancy (Ado)ration
Brown Wolf Leaves the Res and Other Poems
Patricia Hampl Woman Before an Aquarium
Resort and Other Poems
Virgin Time
Kevin Hart New and Selected Poems
* Geoffrey Hill New and Collected Poems (1952-1992)
The Triumph of Love
Speech! Speech!

The Orchards of Syon
Without Title
James Hoggard Medea in Taos and Other Poems
David Brendan Hopes The Penitent Magdalene
Blood Race
*Andrew Hudgins After the Lost War: A Narrative
The Neverending
Babylon in a Jar: New Poems
Ecstatic in the Poison
Josephine Jacobsen In the Crevice of Time: New and Selected Poems
* Mark Jarman Questions for Ecclesiastes
Unholy Sonnets

To the Green Man

Jean Janzen Tasting the Dust
Three Mennonite Poets
Babel's Stair
Rod Jellema Country Fair
A Slender Grace
Elizabeth Jennings Collected Poems, 1953-1985
David Jones The Anathemata
Barbara Jordan Channel
Ilya Kaminsky Musica Humana
Dancing in Odessa
Julia Kasdorf Sleeping Preacher
Eve's Striptease
X. J. Kennedy Dark Horses : New Poems
The Beasts of Bethleham
Jane Kenyon Let Evening Come
Otherwise : New and Selected Poems
Leonard Kress The Centralia Mine Fire
John Knoepfle Selected Poems
Sydney Lea Prayer for the Little City
The Blainville Testament
To the Bone: New and Selected Poems
Ghost Pain
Pursuit of a Wound
John Leax Country Labors
Tabloid News
J. T. Ledbetter Negative Capability
Li-Young Lee Rose
The City in Which I Love You
The Winged Seed: A Remembrance
Madeliene L’Engle Lines Scribbled on an Envelope, and Other Poems
A Cry Like a Bell
Weather of the Heart
* Denise Levertov The Stream & the Sapphire
Collected Poems
C.S. Lewis Poems
Bob Lietz Dangerous Light
Storm Service
Robert Lowell The Collected Poems
Life Studies and for the Union Dead
Marjorie Maddox Body Parts
Jennifer Maier Dark Alphabet
*Paul Mariani The Great Wheel
Salvage Operations

Deaths And Transfigurations
Howard McCord The Great Toad Hunt and Other Expeditions
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre In Quiet Light: Poems on Vermeer's Women
Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt's Religious Paintings
Calvin Miller The Singer Trilogy
Vassar Miller If I Had Wheels or Love: Collected Poems
Gary Miranda Turning Sixty
Listeners at the Breathing Place
*R.A.K. Mason Collected Poems
Janet McCann Looking for the Buddha in the Barbed-Wire Garden
Walter McDonald Night Landings
All that Matters

All Occasions
Robert McDowell The Diviners: A Book Length Poem
On Foot, In Flowers
Quiet Money
Thomas Merton The Collected Poems
*David Middleton The Burning Fields
As Far as Light Remains
Beyond the Chandeleurs
*Czeslaw Milosz New and Collected Poems (1931-2001)
Gabriela Mistral Selected Poems
*Marriane Moore The Complete Poems
Pat Mora Aunt Carmen’s Book of Practical Saints
Robert Morgan Green River: New and Selected Poems
Edwin Muir Complete Poems
*Les Murray The Boys Who Stole the Funeral
Learning Human: Selected Poems

New Collected Poems
Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse
The Biplane Houses
Marilyn Nelson (Waniek) The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems
Carver: A Life in Poems
Stella Nesanovich Brightness that Made My Soul Tremble
Vespers at Mount Angel
Kathleen Norris Journey: New and Selected Poems
Raymond Oliver Private Stock
Gregory Orr New and Selcted Poems
*Eric Pankey Apocrypha
The Late Romances

Oracle Figures

Molly Peacock Take Heart
Raw Heaven
Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002
Charles Peguy The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc
The Portal of the Mystery of Hope
John Poch Poems
Jessica Powers Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers
Marjorie Power Living with It
Reynolds Price The Collected Poems
Wyatt Prunty Unarmed and Dangerous : New and Selected Poems
Irina Ratushinskaya Wind of the Journey
Dance With a Shadow
Pencil Letter
John Reeves A Book of Hours
*Anne Barbara Ridler Collected Poems
Len Roberts Black Wings
Dangerous Angels
Michael Symmons Roberts Corpus
Burning Babylon
Raising Sparks
Soft Keys
Larry Rubin Unanswered Calls
Nicholas Samaras Survivors of the Moving Earth
Thom Satterlee Burning Wyclif
Ku Sang Wastelands of Fire: Selected Poems of Ku Sang
*Gjertrud Schnackenberg The Throne of Labdacus
Supernatural Love: Poems, 1978-1992
Otto Selles New Songs: A Collection
Martha Serpas The Dirty Side of the Storm
Cote Blanche
Luci Shaw The Angles of Light: New & Selected Poems
The Green Earth: Poems of Creation
Robert B. Shaw Solving for X
The Post Office Murals Restored
Below the Surface
The Wonder of Seeing Double
Robert Siegel The Beast and the Elders
In a Pig's Eye
The Waters Under the Earth
A Pentecost of Finches
Elizabeth Smither Professor Musgrove's Canary
A Pattern of Marching

The Tudor Style

The Lark Quartet
Margaret D. Smith A Holy Struggle: Unspoken Thoughts of Hopkins
Elizabeth Spires Worlding
Kim Stafford A Thousand Friends of Rain: New and Selected Poems
William Stafford The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Kevin Stein Chance Ransom
Bruised Paradise
*Timothy Steele Sapphics and Uncertainities: Poems 1970-1986
The Color Wheel
Toward the Winter Solstice
Frank Stewart Flying the Red Eye
John Heath Stubbs Collected Poems
*Allen Tate Collected Poems
John Terpstra The Church Not Made with Hands
Two or Three Guitars: Selected Poems
*R.S. Thomas R. S. Thomas (Everyman Paperback Classics)
Collected Poems 1945-1990
Daniel Tobin Where the World is Made
Alberta Turner Lid and Spoon
A Belfrey of Knees
John Updike Collected Poems, 1953-1993
Americana and Other Poems
Jean Murray Walker A Deed to the Light
Stranger Than Fiction
Gaining Time

A Deed to the Light
T. H. S. Wallace Raw on the Bars of Longing
Chad Walsh The End of Nature
Hang Me Up My Begging Bowl
Walter Wangerin A Miniature Cathedral and Other Poems
*Richard Wilbur New and Collected Poems
Mayflies: New Poems & Translations
Nancy Willard Swimming Lessons: New and Selected Poems
Paul Willis Poison Oak
Genesis Poems
The Deep and Secret Color of Ice
How To Get There
Rick (Didacus) Wilson Off the Back Roads
Between a Rock and a Heart Place
*Terri Witek Fools and Crows
Carnal World
Karol Wojtyla The Place Within: The Poetry of John Paul II
Franz Wright Walking to Martha's Vineyard
God's Silence
Charles Wright The World of the Ten Thousand Things : Poems 1980-1990
Black Zodiac

Negative Blue : Selected Later Poems
Ed Zahniser Sheenjek & Denali
A Calendar of Worship & Other Poems

Poetry Collections and Scholarship Involving Christian Faith or Scripture


Christian Poets & Poetry

Craig, David and Janet McCann, Ed. Odd Angles of Heaven: Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith. Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1994.

_____. Ed. Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry. Ashland, OR: Story Line, 2000.

Davie, Donald. New Oxford Book of Christian Verse. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.

Impasto, David, Ed. Upholding Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

Martin, Regis. Garlands of Grace: An Anthology of Great Christian Poetry. Ignatius P, 2002.

Witherington, Ben. The Poetry of Piety: An Annotated Anthology of Christian Poetry. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

More General Anthologies which include Christian Poets

Bloom, Harold, Ed. American Religious Poems: An Anthology. Library of America, 2006.

Brown, David and David Fuller. Ed. Signs of Grace: Sacraments in Poetry and Prose. Morehouse P, 1996.

Craig, David and Janet McCann, Ed. Francis And Clare in Poetry: An Anthology. Saint Anthony Messenger Press and Franciscan, 2005.

Hart, Kevin. The Oxford Book of Australian Religious Verse. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

Hirshfield, Jane. Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women. NY: Harper Perennial, 1995.

Murray, Les. Anthology of Australian Religious Poetry. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1986.

Olsen, W. Scott and Scott Cairns. Ed. The Sacred Place : Witnessing the Holy in the Physical World. U of Utah P, 1996.

Poetry Responding to Scripture & Jesus

Atwan, Robert and Laurance Wieder. Chapters into Verse: Poetry in English Inspired by the Bible. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.

_____., et al. Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Carbo, Nick and Denise Duhamel, Ed. Sweet Jesus: Poems About the Ultimate Icon. Anthology Editions, 2002.

Curzon, David. Ed. The Gospels in Our Image: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts. NY: Harcourt, 1995.

_____. Modern Poems on the Bible : An Anthology. NY: Jewish Publication Society, 1993.

Domina, Lynn, Ed. Poets on the Psalms. Trinity UP, 2008.

Topical Scholarship

Daiches, David. God and the Poets. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984.

Edwards, Michael. Poetry and Possibility. NY: Macmillan, 1988.

Jarman, Mark. "Poetry and Religion." in Poetry After Modernism. 2nd ed. Robert McDowell. Ed. Brownsville, OR: Story Line P, 1998. 37-77.

Jasper, David. The Study of Literature and Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.

Chapter 2. "Poetry, Belief, and Devotion." 10-36.

Chapter 3. "The Poetry of the Resurrection." 37-44.

Mariani, Paul. God and the Imagination: On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable. U of Georgia P, 2002.

Rosenthal, Peggy. The Poets' Jesus: Representations at the End of a Millennium. NY: Oxford UP, 2000.

Reflections on the Poetic Vocation

Clark, Suzanne. The Roar on the Other Side: A Guide for Student Poets. Moscow, Idaho: Canon P, 2000.

Dudley-Smith, Timothy. "The Poet as Hymn Writer." in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Leland Ryken. Ed. Grand Rapids: Harold Shaw, 2002. 387-396.

Jellema, Rod. "Poems Should Stay Across the Street from the Church" in The Christian Imagination: Essays on Literature and the Arts. Leland Ryken. Ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981. 327-336.

Leax, John. "Unwelcoming the Christian Poet." in The Christian Imagination: Essays on Literature and the Arts. Leland Ryken. Ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981. 347-356.

_____. Grace is Where I Live: Writing as a Christian Vocation. Wheaton: Baker: 1998.

Siegel, Robert. "Musings: On a Life with Poetry." in  Reality and the Vision: 18 Contemporary Writers Tell Who They Read and Why. Philip Yancy. Ed. Dallas: Word, 1990. 39-47.

Walker, Jeanne Murray. "On Poets and Poetry." in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Leland Ryken. Ed. Grand Rapids: Harold Shaw, 2002. 369-386.

Spiritual Practice & Poetry

Countryman, Louis William. The Poetic Imagination: An Anglican Tradition. NY: Orbis, 2002.

Farley, Edward. "The Place of Poetics in Theological Education: A Heuristic Inquiry." Theological Education 22.1 (1994): 133-148.

Hays, Richard. B. "'Writing for God After All'--Scripture, Poetry, and Proclamation." Theological Education 22.1 (1994): 1113-120.

Poetry As Prayer Series. 7 vols. NY: Pauline P. 1999-2003.

Bodo, Murray. Denise Levertov.

Murray Bodo, Ambrogio Bondone Giotto. St. Francis of Asissi.

Carpini, John Delli. Emily Dickinson.

Morneau, Robert. Jessica Powers.

Pennington, M. Basil. OSCO. The Psalms.

Waldron, Robert. The Hound of Heaven.

_____. Thomas Merton.

Rosenthal, Peggy. Praying the Gospels Through Poetry: Lent to Easter. St Anthony Messenger Press, 2001.

Poetry Resources on the Web

A History of Modern American Poetry


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding