First published in hardcover as Love’s Immensity, this powerful book of selections from the mystics East and West, rendered into poetry, is now available in paperback for the first time.
Librettist, memoirist, translator, and author of seven poetry collections, Scott Cairns is Professor of English at University of Missouri, and is founding director of Writing Workshops in Greece: Thessaloniki/Thasos, a program now in its seventh year bringing studentsas well as unaffiliated writersto Greece every June. His poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Image, Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, etc., and both have been anthologized in multiple editions of Best American Spiritual Writing. He is a regular blogger for the Religion Section of The Huffington Post, and contributes a podcast, Flesh Becomes Word, for Ancient Faith Radio. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and the Denise Levertov Award in 2014. His new projects includeDescent to the Heart, a new translation of excerpts from the Greek Philokalia.
Scott Cairns (b. 1954), the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri, has won numerous awards for his dozen of poetry, memoir, essays, and translations. This book was originally published as Loves Immensity; Mystics on the Endless Life (2007). It includes 116 "adaptations and translations" (paraphrases?) of the writings of 37 Christian mystics. The selections are arranged chronologically, beginning with the apostle Paul, Irenaeus, Melito of Sardis, Origen, Athanasius, etc., and then concluding with St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897). Each figure is introduced with a short biographical blurb, but otherwise theres no commentary.
Cairns converted to the Eastern Orthodox church from Protestantism a number of years ago, and in a short introduction he urges Protestants to reconsider sola scripture in favour of the importance of tradition in the formation of our faith. Many of the selections exemplify some of the Orthodox emphases, like the gift of tears, apophaticism, acedia, hesychasm, and theosis. There are many of the major figures that youd expect, like Augustine, St. John of the Ladder, Eckhart, and John of the Cross, but also some lesser known saints like Blessed Angela of Foligno, Gertrude of Helfta, Richard Rolle of Hampole, Walter Hiton, and the Russian Nil Sorsky.
Cairns doesnt define what constitutes the loaded term "mystic." And it would have been nice to know what text he was "adapting," so that a reader could return to the original. Still, these are minor quibbles. This is otherwise a rich treasure of Christian spirituality put to poetry. Among Cairns many other books, readers might also enjoy Idiot Psalms: New Poems (2014), a collection of 53 new poems; and Compass of Affection (2006), a collection of 85 poems from 1985 to 2006. Journey With Jesus