Monday, April 13, 2015

The Song of Daniel and Selected Poems

International Acclaim for

The Song of Daniel and Selected Poems

By Kathryn Ann Hill

The writing and reading of poetry has fallen on hard times in our all too superficial society in which texting is the common method of communication. That is understandable, because much poetry is discredited by its obscurity. Yet nothing else can take its place for us as Christians who prize the incarnation of our Lord. Religious poetry can say what nothing else can say. And better! Like no other kind of speech, it is able to touch us more deeply and lead us more fully, body and soul and spirit, into the mystery of God’s word and the wonder of life in God’s world. For that reason I commend the religious poems written by Kathryn Hill and published in The Song of Daniel and Selected Poems. While none of these is obscure and hard to fathom for those who are biblically literate, they are all spiritually rich in what they say. In the first part of this anthology she vividly and faithfully retells the book of Daniel in sprung, alliterative verse. Her cycle of twelve chapters make this demanding book imaginatively, emotionally and spiritually accessible to the reader. Since it is narrative verse it must be read aloud to have its full dramatic impact on the religious imagination. In the second part of the book she sings God’s saving word sacramentally by meditating on it devotionally and so moves the reader to prayer and praise in 35 winsome poems which are distinguished by their spiritual profundity and theological wit.

Dr. John W. Kleinig
Adelaide, South Australia

Writing poetry that contemplates and draws others to the great acts of God as revealed in his Word is as old as the Psalms. This collection of poems by Kathryn Hill continues the tradition in modern alliterative verse by allowing readers to think about the biblical text of Daniel chapter by chapter and thereby gain from her insight. Also included are additional poems, mostly based on New Testament texts, that will inspire and strengthen faith. This collection stands in the tradition of psalmists and Christian writers from antiquity to the present day and promises to enrich all who read it.

Dr. Andrew Steinmann
Distinguished Professor of Theology and Hebrew
Concordia University Chicago

“Our gentle Lord comes cloaked” (p. 90)—in the waters of baptism, in the bread and the wine of the supper, and in words of history and poetry. His gentleness results in the forgiveness and restoration of those burdened by guilt and disease who touch his cloaks with all their senses. The words of history and poetry in the divine Scriptures have been reread and retold over centuries in order to bring this gentle Lord to each new generation of burdened and suffering sinners. Christians sing and say the old biblical stories and poems over and over again in new songs, that is, new wordings, new cloaks—and yet it is always the same Christ and gentle Lord who comes newly cloaked.

The poetry of Kathryn Hill is a wonderful example for how the readers are vividly drawn into the old biblical texts and stories and thus enabled to experience the trustworthiness and gentleness of the triune God. How he keeps and protects his flock in the midst of heathenism and throughout the turmoils of the history of the kingdoms of this world can fruitfully be meditated throughout the book of Daniel. The extensive and detailed poetic rendering of this whole prophetic and at the same time apocalyptic book of the Old Testament fills more than half of the book at hand.

All the other poems on many more biblical stories and texts about the gentle Lord who comes cloaked to sinners—in the muddy waters of the Jordan River, in the crumbs that fall from the Lord’s table, in the service of his angels, in the coming of the Spirit, in the office of the shepherds, in the intercession for the needy of this world—are tiny yet precious and powerful pieces of spiritual literature that will in the best sense nourish and enrich our Christian faith, love and hope. This will happen even more so if these texts are read aloud. For reading aloud will enable the reader’s senses and heart to be touched and moved by the contents and the rhythm not only of the poems as such but also of the gentle Lord at work in them.

The Reverend Dr. Armin Wenz
Lutheran Pastor in Halle (Saale), Germany

Kathryn Hill’s The Song of Daniel and Selected Poems is a brilliant recasting of the book of Daniel in alliterative verse (Part One) and selected poems on biblical themes that have not been published before (Part Two). The Song of Daniel is a heroic tale that both captures the twelve chapters of the biblical story in unrhymed verse and allows the poet’s sensitivities and piety to shine through. The 35 poems of the book’s second half are mainly musings upon such biblical themes as Jesus’ changing water into wine, meeting the woman of Samaria at the well, John the Baptist’s thunderous preaching, Jairus’ daughter, the cleansing of Naaman the Syrian, Eve’s fall into sin, the Holy Trinity, etc. Here a more varied metrical structure prevails: four-line stanzas with rhyming second and fourth lines, rhyming couplets, rhyming iambs, and forms approximating haiku. Several could be sung as hymns, and all show painstaking attention to detail, love for the things of God, and faithfulness to one’s cross while here on earth. The book is perfect for private devotions and reading to children.

Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN

Kathryn Hill’s new collection of poetry includes a retelling of the tale of the Old Testament prophet and hero Daniel. The second section of the book offers short works reminiscent of the spiritual verse of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. “A Word in Our Defense,” “The Dogs under the Table,” and “The Woman of Samaria” are especially noteworthy. The first poem, “Song for a Wedding Mass,” merits being used as just that.

Mike Foster
Retired English Professor, Writer, and member of the eclectic cover band, A Find Kettle of Fish.
Metamora, Illinois

The Song of Daniel is a rich narrative treatment of its subject, the great quality of which is a convincing power to surprise us with a fresh, dramatic perspective and to subtly guide us to new insights while remaining true to the story we know so well. One can feel here a poetic expression formed by biblical piety and imprinted intuitively with the rhythm of the form. In Kathryn Hill’s capable hands, the old alliterative verse form reveals its ability to carry a contemporary voice and its great aptitude for painting musical and emotional tapestries. Mrs. Hill’s lines can wander, shuffle, or leap, and yet the reader is never lost. (Anyone who has tried to follow the sense of an Old English poem will especially appreciate this.) Far from being any sort of pastiche, The Song of Daniel happily lacks any of the linguistic archaism or amateur sensibilities that unfortunately mar some of the recent attempts to renew the form. Here is really a living, organic procession of a natural voice that is simultaneously direct and devout, imaginative and respectful.

Mrs. Hill’s personal insights also add an attractive power to her Selected Poems, so that what might otherwise be admired simply as disarmingly straightforward and pious summaries of Sunday readings and meditations on Christian themes turn out, on inspection, to repel any accusation of naivety or sentimentality. These poems are judiciously invested with a certain lightness, astuteness, and assurance in the poet’s natural voice, in the simplicity of which one is reminded of the better Agrarians, and which in musicality invokes the rhythms of Longfellow. In the great concluding bookend—an alliterative Song of the Three Young Men—Mrs. Hill deftly ties together the collection and brings it to a triumphant culmination.

Matthew Carver, MFA
Translator of German and Latin poetry and prose
Editor of Walther’s Hymnal (CPH, 2013)

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