Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2022-08-01
230 Pages, 5.00 x 8.00 in
- Published: August 2022
Testament is an imaginative improvisation on the Bible that engages with the intensities, the ups and downs, of existence in our complex and fragmented world.
Psalter, the first part, comprises 150 psalm-like poems that sound the depths and heights of life lived in the presence of God. Here, shaped into powerful, accessible poetry, is the wisdom of a mature and practical faith that knows love, grief, doubt, fear, disappointment, and overwhelming delight and joy. Micheal O’Siadhail stretches heart, mind, and imagination to open up profound questions of God, suffering and aging, truth and trust, freedom and surprise, desire and love. There are passionate exchanges with God and daring leaps of insight. Through them all runs a gripping conversational relationship expressed in praise, thanks, lament, and distilled wisdom, embracing a dazzling variety of forms and rhythms.
Gospel, the second part, retells in poetry stories from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The emphasis is on the plain sense of the stories, newly imagined. We are invited to reread them, to discover insights and nuances, angles and depths, and above all to encounter afresh the familiar yet endlessly mysterious central character—Jesus. The world’s bestselling book shows yet again its capacity to excite and inspire.
O’Siadhail’s acclaimed The Five Quintets engaged with the ways in which the arts, economics, politics, the sciences, philosophy, and theology have shaped our twenty-first-century world. Here in Testament is an imaginative faith and wise spirituality that can inspire day-to-day living in that world, revealed through the inner life and penetrating discernment of a great poet.
O’Siadhail gives us a double feast. First, ‘Psalter’ unites lyrical, beautifully crafted poetry with deep, urgent and questioning love of God and of life. Then ‘Gospel’ gently and perceptively draws us into the stories of Jesus. The combination opens up a way of wise faith and mature love, alert to both the personal and the public challenges of our time.~David F. Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus, University of Cambridge
Many devotional poets have explored the great lyric themes of love, age, nature, art, and loss. Few have had as much fun in the process as O’Siadhail. Tender, exuberant, and physical, these poems celebrate the richness and variety of an inner life focused on spiritual experience, within a consciousness that also ‘cannot get enough of earthly things.' This is a joyous collection, full of energy, self-acceptance, and hope.~Hazel Hutchison, Professor of English Literature, University of Leeds
Love and prayer are the intertwined themes of every poem in this book, which demonstrates that praising God well is less a spontaneous act than the work of a lifetime spent in faith. O’Siadhail shares the Psalmists’ unapologetic subjectivity, the immediacy of their prayer, their insistence on the actuality of a loving relationship with God, perceived in part through suffering. Here the mature poet prays for ‘years to leave love’s legacy behind,’ and this book is part of the fulfillment of his wise desire.~Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School
After the brilliant inventiveness and seminal achievement of his The Five Quintets, Micheal O’Siadhail now ‘re-reaps delight, bearing sheaves’ in Testament, a new harvest of poems. Its two-part sequence, ‘Psalter’ and ‘Gospel,’ awakens us to the fresh possibilities of God’s reviving presence in our lives. Out of the despair and suffering in his life, the poet memorably sings ‘a whole choreography of praise’ to the Lord for the gift of continuing life and love in these daring and captivating reckonings with and re-imaginings of scriptural texts from the Psalms and the Gospels.~Richard Rankin Russell, Professor of English, Baylor University
The distinguished poet Micheal O’Siadhail has given us no less than a spiritual classic in his Testament, which will captivate and move readers in many future generations. After a lifetime’s writing of poetry, which has garnered numerous awards, he has now—in his own words—given us a magnificent ‘coming out’ about his love for God, and has written openly in the form of psalms about the faith that lies, often hidden, in his work. Like the ancient Hebrew Psalms, he offers us a dizzying range of emotions—praise, joy, regret, perplexity, sorrow, hope—and where there is complaint there is also a confidence about having conversation with the Lord of the Dance whom he has called ‘Madam Jazz’ over many years. Speaking in the first person on behalf of us all, his psalms are rooted in a deep experience of life and a relishing of the natural world; they are expressed in innovative language and compelling images which are intensely lyrical and conceptually satisfying at the same time.~Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford
In Testament, the poet-psalmist’s ‘I’ voices a deeply personal struggle before God: 150 painful-yet-healing steps, from loss, grief, and protest before a God who is not yet present to the defining push-pull of confession and wonderment, remorse and hallelujah before the God whose love is unveiled and veiled again through the eyes of emergent faith. The personal drama performs a spiritual call: that each ‘I’ that marks the other’s absence may, through longer or shorter struggles, release its veil and find this Lover waiting.~Peter Ochs, Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia
This book with 150 poems inspired by the Psalms, and 50 inspired by stories from the Gospels, is Micheal O’Siadhail’s dialogue with the transcendent. It is a book that is both analeptic and proleptic in that O’Siadhail looks back at a life well lived, as well as looking forward to love, experience, and old age. At its core this is a conversation with God: ‘Now in my mid-seventies, I dare to be more open.’ This is achieved through a use of language that shows a poet at the peak of his powers, as he praises, rails, doubts, probes but ultimately basks, in a relationship with God. His complex use of rhyme, rhythm, assonance, and pararhyme bonds the lines together and makes the couplets, tercets, quatrains, and quinzaines of the poems into remarkably solid, yet fluid, structures. There are hints of John Donne in the Holy Sonnets here as God becomes a presence in the lyric dialogue of the poems, while the philosophical influence of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is here to be seen. It is a valid, fluent, and complex testament to the poet’s relationship with the divine.~Eugene O’Brien, Department of English Language and Literature, Mary Immaculate College
This extraordinary book is a spiritual tour de force by one whom I consider to be the greatest living poet writing in English. Testament captures in poetry what are for most people of faith the two focal points of Scripture—the Psalms and the Gospels. O’Siadhail has the potential to serve today’s church in the way Milton, Bunyan, and Lewis served generations of the faithful in the past. We are blessed to have this work.~Tom Greggs, FRSE, Marischal (1616) Chair and Head of Divinity, University of Aberdeen
Micheal O’Siadhail stands tall in an illustrious line of Christian poets through the centuries. Conceptually savvy and artistically brilliant, his poetry is breathtaking in its range and beauty. In this new book, O’Siadhail offers a powerful improvisation on classic biblical texts. This book reflects a rich and profound example of a ‘scriptural imagination’ at work. Take and read... and savor.~L. Gregory Jones, President of Belmont University and Dean and Williams Professor Emeritus, Duke Divinity School
Uplifting and edifying, as well as personal and poignant, this collection is a must-read for poetry lovers of all kinds. I read it straight through and would not have stopped to pause for any reason; then I went through again to savor each poem. This is poetry at its best, and anyone who already knows any part of O’Siadhail’s extensive body of work will not be so much surprised as further gratified by this most recent achievement. Those who have not yet read any of his poems, as well as those who have, I believe, will be equally well-pleased.~Patrice M. Wilson, Agape Review
These poems are a lifeline for anyone who feels that the presence of Scripture has become sore in their spiritual lives. They are vivacious and sensitive, and some of them might break your heart with beauty or sorrow. They’re also poetically brilliant.~Kayla Robbins, Macrina Magazine