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John in the Company of Poets
The Gospel in Literary Imagination
Thomas Gardner artistically describes Jesus—"the Word made flesh"—as a poem penned by God for the world, and John—author of the Fourth Gospel—as the poem's interpreter. John's structural patterns, repetitions, and narrative interventions invite readers to experience for themselves the beauty of the divine poem. John in the Company of Poets deepens this invitation by re-imagining the biblical text through the eyes of such artists as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, and T. S. Eliot, offering a literary reading of the Gospel based upon their powerful poetic replies. Poets are our best readers, contends Gardner, and his deft analysis forges a fresh path into the issues and tensions of John's Gospel.
1 Prologue (John 1:1-18)
2 Come and See (John 1:19-51)
3 Life (John 2:1-4:54)
4 Blinded (John 5:1-10:42)
5 Glory (John 11:1-12:50)
6 Looking Forward (John 13:1-17:26)
7 Seen (John 18:1-20:31)
8 Epilogue (John 21:1-25)
"Gardner proves that John and Jesus are nothing less than the finest poets, and that good readers must understand this if we are to have a rich encounter with words, let alone the Word of God. For this reason, Gardner's book is worthwhile and of the greatest value."
—John Poch, Texas Tech University, Religion & Literature (45:1, 2013)
"In setting poetry, most of it modern, beside texts from the Gospel of John, Thomas Gardner has made a moving proof that not only the Word but also the word, when it is searched out, weighed and savored, is full of grace and truth."
—Marilynne Robinson, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Gilead
“… a preeminent eighteenth-century source of American religious and political inspiration."
—Chris Beneke, Bently University, The Historian (74:4)
"Thomas Gardner is immersed so thoroughly in the Gospel of John he enables readers to reenact John's thoughts just as the exemplar, Jesus, enacted God as His Word. Gardner moves the gospel beyond mere intellection, directing readers into contemporary poetry that enlivens the spoken Word and gains further entry for all into the substance of God in His mortal body. The masterful explication of the poems chosen by Gardner draws their texts, along with the reader, deep into the gospel's sometimes elusive significance so that, all in all, John in the Company of Poets stands as the best contemporary rediscovery of the gospel I have read."
—Larry Woiwode, Poet Laureate of North Dakota and Writer in Residence, Jamestown College
"Well-grounded in scholarship and carefully executed ... highly energetic, associative, and digressive."
—Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, Fordham University, Anglican Theological Review (2013, 95:1)
"The great value of Gardner’s book is that it not only teases open this most evocative of texts, but offers outstanding examples of poets pursuing further exploration."
—Robert Willoughby, London School of Theology, The Glass (Spring 2013)
"... a fascinating cross-disciplinary study.... Gardner's collection represents a remarkable feat."
—Christianity and Literature (2011, 61:1)
“Gardner’s book is a delightful read, combining the best of a non-technical commentary with engaged poetical insight. It makes for thoroughly enjoyable personal reading or study through John’s gospel.”
—John Bayon, Moody Theological Seminary Library Blog
"What would it be like to read the Gospel of John among the poets and to hear the incandescent and strangely clear music of that response? This book is the answer to this question. Gardner deepens our sense of what responding to ‘the Word made flesh’ might look like by showing how the words of John have been caught and held close by poets, each new voice wrestling into language what these words might mean in their own moment before releasing them to sing across time. A book for the classroom, the study, the pulpit, and prayer, John in the Company of Poets is almost too beautiful for words."
—Esther Gilman Richey, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, University of South Carolina
Thomas Gardner is Alumni Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of, among other works, A Door Ajar: Contemporary Writers and Emily Dickinson; Jorie Graham: Essays on the Poetry; and Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.
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Other books by:
Books in Series:
Studies in Christianity and Literature
Gravity and Grace - Seamus Heaney and the Force of Light
Invisible Conversations - Religion in the Literature of America
John in the Company of Poets - The Gospel in Literary Imagination
The Sacred Body - Asceticism in Religion, Literature, Art, and Culture
Seeming Knowledge - Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith
T. S. Eliot and the Essay