These beautifully crafted pieces are not "religious poems" in the usual sense. As Jellema explains, "These poems individually are not spiritual message-bearers. Still, it is inevitable that my belief in a beautiful world that is broken and divinely redeemed -- though I am not preaching about it -- should be evident throughout." And it is, as Jellema takes a second, deeper look at such things as green beans in all their glory, a lovesick lonely young man in a Laundromat, and his own sense of the world while snorkeling in the Red Sea.
"The Poems of Rowan Williams" gathers together the best pieces from the Archbishop's two previous collections, "After Silent Centuries" (1994) and "Remembering Jerusalem" (2001), together with several new works. These powerful, moving meditations are for everyone, religious and nonreligious alike. Archbishop Williams speaks from the crucible of faith, yet his words emerge from the universal experience of life. As Williams himself says: "I dislike the idea of being a religious poet. I would prefer to be a poet for whom religious things mattered intensely."
The subject matter of these sixty-five poems ranges broadly -- the natural world, works of art, recollections of a visit to the Holy Land at Easter, thoughts arising from fragments of the ancient Celtic world, a modern Welsh scene, a group of thin girls awaiting at a bus stop. A particularly poignant group of poems captures Williams's reflections on death, arising first from his feelings of grief at the loss of loved ones (including his father and mother) and widening to include the last days of Tolstoy, Nietzsche in his madness, Rilke, Simone Weil, and Thomas Merton. There are also some free translations -- three well-known poems by Rilke and nine works by Welsh poets -- in which Williams succeeds marvelously in conveying the imagery and energy of the originals.
Williams's pen is lean and lyrical. His vision is penetrating andwise. More, his treatment of his subjects never fails to render them in suggestive, very often redemptive, ways. Readers from all walks of life with come to cherish this lovely collection of verse.
In a major contribution to the critically acclaimed and long lived Classics of Western Spirituality "TM" series, editor Th. Emil Homerin makes available here two of Ibn al-Farid's poems that have long been considered classics of Islamic mystical literature. The Wine Ode, a poem in praise of wine as well as a love poem, can also be seen as an extended meditation on the presence of divine love in the universe. The Poem of the Sufi Way, one of the longest poems ever composed in Arabic, and the most famous one rhyming in "T", begins as a love poem and then explores a number of crucial concerns confronting the seeker on the Sufi path. Both works have been treated for centuries in numerous mystical commentaries. Noteworthy as well in this volume is the addition of the Adorned Proem, a reverential account of Ibn al-Farid's life by his grandson.
Individuals interested in the fields of mysticism and spirituality, as well as lovers of poetry, particularly love poetry, will find this to be fascinating reading. It will have great relevance, of course, for scholars and students of Arabic literature, Islam and mysticism.