Poems in the form of prayer
July 8, 2017 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for twenty and twenty-first century poems from any religious tradition that are framed as a direct address to God.

I'm looking for (relatively) contemporary poetry recommendations that take the form of a prayer of any type - benediction, intercession, gratitude, complaint - as long as its a direct address to God (or a goddess, Mary, or other spiritual figure.) I'm looking for work with literary merit; the content and spiritual angle are less important than the form. Not looking for jokes or parodies, or the kind of things you'd find on inspirational websites.

Just as examples: selections from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (Ash Wednesday)
and Vachel Lindsay's At Mass.

posted by pretentious illiterate to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
About a third of the poems in Louise Glück's The Wild Iris (titled "Matins" or "Vespers") are addressed to God, some more pointedly than others. (E.g. Matins, Vespers)
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2017

"Psalm" by Mark Jarman

Lord of dimensions and the dimensionless,
Wave and particle, all and none,

Who lets us measure the wounded atom,
Who lets us doubt all measurement,

When in this world we betray you
Let us be faithful in another.
posted by yasaman at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

One decade early, Hopkins's 'Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend'
posted by praemunire at 11:40 AM on July 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Prayer from a Mouse by Sarah Messer

Philip Metres' Prayer

Shellac's Prayer to God
posted by gwint at 12:47 PM on July 8, 2017

Prayers from the Ark. Here they are set to music, which is how I learned them. (Note: pdf format).
posted by she's not there at 1:20 PM on July 8, 2017

Just noticed that the second link does not include all the poems I learned, e.g., The Raven is missing.
posted by she's not there at 1:25 PM on July 8, 2017

It's technically a song, but Bob Dylan's "Lord Protect My Child".
posted by banishedimmortal at 1:32 PM on July 8, 2017

R. S. Thomas was a clergyman and poet. His short poem Gift comes to mind.

Carl Sandburg's Prayers of Steel.
posted by misteraitch at 1:33 PM on July 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

A couple by C S Lewis:

- The Naked Seed
- Prayer

And Chesterton:
- O God of Earth and Altar
- A Little Litany (addressed to Mary)

In Auden's Horae Canonicae series, the Compline poem also has elements of direct address.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:25 PM on July 8, 2017

Czeslaw Milosz, Prayer

Geoffrey Hill, Lachrimae Amantis, Tenebrae

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Who Am I?

Leonard Cohen, If It Be Your Will
posted by verstegan at 2:43 PM on July 8, 2017

Hail, Aradia! From the Amalthean Horn
Pour forth thy store of love; I lowly bend
Before thee, I adore thee to the end,
With loving sacrifice thy shrine adorn.
Thy foot is to my lip * my prayers upborne
Upon the rising incense-smoke; then spend
Thine ancient love, O Mighty One, descend
To aid me, who without thee am forlorn.

Adapted by Gerald Gardner from a poem by Aleister Crowley originally addressed to Tyche, Goddess of Fortune. This version quoted from Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook, Phoenix Publishing Inc., copyright 1981, 1984, from the edition printed 1996, p. 41.
posted by heatherlogan at 3:19 PM on July 8, 2017

Lots of hymns are structured like this:
English version of "How Great Thou Art" (original Swedish version from the 1800's)
English text "Joyful Joyful we adore Thee"
"Great is Thy Faithfulness"
"Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer/Jehovah"
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:40 PM on July 8, 2017

Franz Wright, One Heart
posted by holborne at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2017

A Grace by Donald Hall.
posted by FencingGal at 8:55 PM on July 8, 2017

Dear God - Midge Ure
(This is not an XTC cover - it's a completely different song.)
posted by SisterHavana at 9:48 PM on July 8, 2017

There are hymns in Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood (Book Two of the MaddAddam Trilogy), which were later set to music by by Orville Stoeber (Hymns of the God’s Gardeners; Lyrics from Year of the Flood). "Oh Let Me Not Be Proud, Dear Lord," is a direct address, as is "Oh Lord, You Know Our Foolishness."
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:41 PM on July 8, 2017

Stephen Tapscott's 'from the book of changes' includes a poem like this that I'm extremely fond of ("Lord, you have given me many gifts / Some I have tended, some abused / One from whom I am divorced / A good companion") but the full text doesn't seem to be anywhere online
posted by piato at 5:07 AM on July 9, 2017

One of my favorites: Six Apologies, Lord by Olena Kalytiak Davis.
posted by ourobouros at 5:50 AM on July 9, 2017

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