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 openly explores matters of theology and experience.   This includes a variety of denominations -- Catholic (Annie Dillard, Denise Levertov, David Craig), Orthodox (Scott Cairns, Anna Akhmatova), 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 other genres, such as the novelists Diane Glancy, Walter Wangerin, or John Updike.

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

Click to go to the 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
  • Radiography

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
  • Philokalia
  • 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
  • Midquest

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
  • Present
  • Contradictions

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
  • Where
  • 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
  • Nosferatu
  • 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 (1986)
  • Out in the Open (1989)
  • The Vigil: A Poem in Four Voices (1993)
  • Autumn Grasses (2003)
  • One Body (2007)

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

Raw Heaven

  • Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002

* 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
  • IRIS
  • Epistles

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 Bethlehem

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

Madeleine 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 Selected Poems

*Eric Pankey

  • Apocrypha
  • The Late Romances
  • Cenotaph
  • Oracle Figures
  • Reliquaries

Molly Peacock

  • Take Heart

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 Uncertainties: 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
  • Applachia
  • 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

Anthologies

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 VerseOxford: 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 ProseMorehouse 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 VerseOxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

Hirshfield, Jane. Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by WomenNY: 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 WorldU 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 IconAnthology 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 IneffableU 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 EasterSt Anthony Messenger Press, 2001.