Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

St. Francis Poems

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

St. Francis Poems

Article excerpt

St. Francis Poems. By David Craig. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2013. vii + 93 pp. $13.00 (paper).

Divided into four sections of varying length, David Craig's latest volume of poems sketches an endearing portrait of the life and experiences of St. Francis of Assisi. Drawing on two medieval texts, The Three Companions of St. Francis and the Fioretti, or "Little Flowers," that form part of the wealth of stories concerning "the early days of St. Francis and his movement" (p. vii), the author explains in his preface how these works capture "something of the spirit of St. Francis" (p. vii). Their appeal for the Christian poet is clear. Moreover, each of the thirty-seven poems in this volume contains an epigraph taken from the original material, granting the reader a guide to the poem's content. The collection concludes with the poet's notes on the original material, offering an unusual insight into the creative process that brings St. Francis to life for the contemporary reader.

The seven poems in Part I and the three in Part II are free-verse narratives that capture the early experiences and details of Francis's life. Here the poet skillfully recreates the goals and behavior of Francis, as well as the responses of his father, Pietro, and Francis's friends and brothers who are perplexed by his behavior. The first poem of Part I, for example, depicts "his birth, vanity, frivolity, and prodigality" (p. 3). Francis sings "loudly from stumps" with "imaginary instruments" (p. 3) to accompany his solo to the birds. The poets use of concrete imagery and everyday language makes this behavior accessible. A phrase such as "a carafe of friends" (p. 3) does doubleduty, suggesting Francis's many friendships before his conversion and the drinking and partying that would have accompanied their adventures. The influence of the wandering minstrels on Francis's singing, the "cascade of mirth" (p. 3) his money provided his friends, his growing dissatisfaction with his shallow life, and his deliberate clowning to draw others are vividly depicted in these poems.

The poems of Part II, based on the stigmata section of the Fioretti, are more solemn and spiritually moving. Francis is "bread for the birds" (p. 17). Throughout this section, the poet focuses on Francis's littleness, his shape "so sunk in his robe" (p. 17) that it is as if he is one with the Earth itself. Many images of dirt emphasize Francis's humility. For him, "Earth was a place to be swept, cleaned: broom of dirt, / on a sea of dirt, dirt on dirt dancing" (p. …

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