Filmmaker Bids to Revive Christian Poetry

By Young, Catherine | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 12, 1997 | Go to article overview

Filmmaker Bids to Revive Christian Poetry


Young, Catherine, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Christian poetry, which moderns have called a lost art since the death of writers such as T.S. Eliot, is making a comeback, highlighted by a special poetry reading at the Library of Congress next week.

The event, tied to National Poetry Month, is being propelled by two new advocates of religious letters, editor and filmmaker David Impastato and the journal of arts and religion.

Mr. Impastato has brought together the best in current Christian poetry in a new book, "Upholding Mystery." And four of its contributors will read original works at the library event Thursday at 6:45 p.m. in the Mumford Room of the library's Madison Building.

"This reading from the anthology . . . promises to be a powerful experience of this mysterious religious presence at the heart of our literary culture," said Richard Wilkerson, managing editor of "Image."

Mr. Impastato, an Alexandria resident, made films in California for years and then began to lament that modern poetry was almost absent from the American arts. He went in search of the best, and his collection was enthusiastically published by Oxford University Press.

"Why would anyone want to read more contemporary Christian poetry when so much of it is clearly bad?" Mr. Impastato asks in the forward to the book.

To show that there still is Christian poetry worth reading, he relied on 15 poets, including such popular writers as Annie Dillard, Richard Wilbur and Daniel Berrigan.

He also shows a diversity of style, from the iambic pentameter of Andrew Hudgins to the Blake-like verse of Geoffrey Hill.

Mr. Hill, an Englishman and professor at Boston College, is among the four public readers in addition to Kathleen Norris, a best-selling memoirist; Mr. Hudgins, a prize-winning poet; and Scott Cairns, a Virginia scholar who is distinguished visiting poet at Wichita State University.

In his "anthology of contemporary Christian poetry," Mr. Impastato has chosen 16 topics and arranged the works accordingly.

The first chapter, for example, is poetry about "The Cross." "All reflection on the Christian experience starts here because without Christ's passion there is no Christianity beyond useful precept," Mr.

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