Monday, August 3, 2015

The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis (Kent State University Press)

This week on my blog I am turning my attention to one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis is a fascinating man in Christian history. I can't think of one author that so many people from so many different denominations read. On top of that, every denomination tries to claim C.S. Lewis as one of their own. Despite him being Anglican, I have heard loads of Catholic and Orthodox Christians state that if C.S. Lewis were alive today he would be Catholic or Orthodox. That's a very bold claim to make and one that I do not necessarily agree with, but that is a discussion for a different time. Today, I am reviewing something of C.S. Lewis' that many people are not aware he wrote - poetry.

When I think back on my childhood, there are few authors that I remember and even fewer that I still read. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia had a great impact on both my life and taste in literature and is an author I still find myself reading. As I grew older, I tackled his more adult works, both fiction (The Screwtape Letters) and nonfiction (Mere Christianity). It is only recently that I discovered that Mr. Lewis was also a poet. Don W. King compiled almost all of Lewis' poetry in the nearly 500 page volume entitled The Collected Poems of C.S. Lewis. The poems are arranged chronologically from 1907 to 1963 with a section devoted to undated poetry, and include war poetry; spiritual poetry; and even epic poetry of Norse persuasion. There are even some very short poems in this collection, like the following:

She was delicately, beautifully made,
So small, so unafraid,
     Till the bomb came
     (Bombs are the same,
Delicately, beautifully made.)

This short, but sad poem was written in 1942, which was when World War II had just begun. One of his longer works is entitled Dymer. It is composed of eight cantos and is clearly modeled on some of the greats likes Homer or Milton. It was interesting, but one can see this lacked the Christian themes we are used to see in his work, because it was written long before his conversion. I admit that I did not read all of this poetry, because some of it just bogged me down. The introduction by the editor, Don W. King, does a great service of placing proper perspective on the poetry of C.S. Lewis and why it is important. I believe this work would best be read with another of King's work, C.S. Lewis, Poet. What I did take away from this work was that our plans don't always align with God's plans. By all accounts, C.S. Lewis dreamed of being remembered as one of the greatest poets ever, and it is clear that he poured his heart and soul into his poetry. However, no one today remembers C.S. Lewis for his poetry but instead for his prose, and there is no shame in that at all. If you are interested in poetry and want to understand the context of C.S. Lewis, then I'd recommend this book if you can get it at a reasonable price.

This book was provided to me for free by Kent State University Press in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to hear an interview with the editor conducted by someone else, please click here.