July 8, 2009

Catholic literature today: what's being done today--is it enough? So much of contemporary work keeps an eye on the market, which I suppose it must. But what about ardent faithfulness, what about falling on one's face before the living God, writing from there? And on the flip side, what about the seige mentality that tries to make great literature out of Chesterton, Belloc, Newman?

July 5, 2009

Catholic Reading List

  • Alighieri, Dante, THE DIVINE COMEDY
  • Auden, W. H., FOR THE TIME BEING
  • Akhmatova, Anna, POEMS OF AKHMATOVA
  • Baxter, James K., SELECTED POEMS
  • Berry, Wendell, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Blake, William, THE COMPLETE POEMS
  • Claudel, Paul, KNOWING THE EAST
  • Cording, Robert, COMMON LIFE
  • Daniels, Kate, FOUR TESTIMONIES
  • Eliot, T. S., FOUR QUARTETS
  • Everson, William, THE MASKS OF DROUGHT
  • Graham, Jorie, THE END OF BEAUTY
  • Heaney, Seamus, SELECTED POEMS
  • Herbert, George, SELECTED POEMS
  • Hill, Geoffrey, CANAAN
  • Hodgen, John, GRACE
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley, POEMS
  • Hudgins, Andrew, SAINTS AND STRANGERS
  • Jacobsen, Josephine, THE SISTERS
  • Jarman, Mark, TO THE GREEN MAN
  • Karr, Mary SINNERS WELCOME (cafeteria Catholic)
  • Kenyon, Jane, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Knoepfle, John, RIVERS INTO ISLAND
  • Lea, Sydney, TO THE BONE
  • Lietz, Bob, STORM SERVICE
  • Merton, Thomas, IN THE DARK BEFORE DAWN
  • Miller, Vassar, ONIONS AND ROSES
  • Moore, Marianne, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Norris, Kathleen, JOURNEY
  • O'Donnell, Angela, WAITING FOR ECSTASY
  • Pollard, Sr. Miriam Pollard, NEITHER BE AFRAID (though the teacher swamps the art here)
  • Pound, Ezra, his translations
  • Riley, Michael, CIRCLING THE STONES
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria, DUINO ELEGIES
  • St. John of the Cross, POEMS
  • Samaras, Nicholas, HANDS OF THE SADDLEMAKER
  • Sasanov, Catherine, ALL THE BLOOD TETHERS
  • Serpas, Martha, THE DIRTY SIDE OF THE STORM (“rebel” Catholic)
  • Stafford, William, A SCRIPTURE OF LEAVES
  • Thomas, Dylan, COLLECTED POEMS
  • Thompson, Francis, COLLECTED POETRY
  • Traherne, Thomas, POEMS
  • Wilbur, Richard, NEW & COLLECTED
  • Wilkinson, Claude, JOY IN THE MORNING
  • Yeats, William Butler, THE POEMS OF W. B. YEATS
  • Zagajewski, Adam, WITHOUT END

Published Works

Books of Poetry

Being a poet is the only job where you can't know much, but get to make a big deal out of it.

Mary's House

Mary's House

Idylls Press(2007)

"Mary's House is a veritable hipster/scholar's Lives of the Saints, taking us from the Psalms through a spelndid, giddy, brillant chorus of saints - women and men - many of these poems (and what abundance is here, in so many lyrical forms and riffs on forms) turning on the poet's own progress...and, with searing intensity and honesty and wit, on our own. If anyone has drunk deeply of the model of St. Francis for our time, it has to be David Craig. He scatters flowers of spiritual wisdom with abandon toward us, which again and again and again bless even as they burn."
-Paul Mariani, author of Deaths and Transfigurations and Salvage Operations

The Hives of the Saints

The Hive of the Saints

iUniverse, Inc. (2005)

David Craig is a poet for whom the vocation of poetry is but one element within the greater vocation of being a faithful servant. in all that he writes - here in The Hive of The Saints and elsewhere - we hear the voice of one crying in a perplexing wilderness, bidding us to prepare. These poems attain to both witness and prophecy, offering calm consolation that every darkness will yield to light.

- Scott Cairns, author of Philokalia: New & Select Poems

The Hive of the Saints should establish Franciscan University English Professor David Craig as one of the finest religious poets currently writing. This book, a careful selection from his many previous books, contains meditations on Scriptures, vivid images of family life, and representation of the lives and hearts of saints. The family poems give moving vignettes of a Catholic working-class childhood and of the people who shared it. But the saint poems are unforgettable. Mini-documentaries in verse, accurate and inspiring, they evoke the sounds and sights of the times and places of favorite saints, demonstrating the nature of saintliness to those of us who can never quite understand it. We see the forces of the world working and the gift of grace that confounded them. What makes all these poems so fine is the poet's deep faith combined with his feel for words - his ability to manipulate the accords, the music, and the dissonance of language. He teases the words, gnarled and knotted and resistant, into translucence.

The Therese sequence is especially powerful. He describes St. Therese in her last illness, considering the claim that long life is needed to serve God:

Merits for most of us are piled

Like duty logged, a drowned carcass,

a wooden leg. Which is why

she is all eye, a blink on the bed,

seeing clearly,

tender as any morning.

These poems see clearly. They are tender as any morning.

- Janet McCann, author of Pascal Goes to the Races

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Sonnets from Matthew

Sonnets from Matthew


Taken singly, each poem is wonderfully crafted and deeply wise. Taken together, they stand as an achievement that is nothing less than monumental. They confirm what I have long suspected, that David Craig is among the finest religious poets writing today.

- William Bedford Clarke, editor of The Selected Letters of Robert Penn Warren

What an impressive collection this is. For the past two days I have been reading with the Gospel of Matthew open beside me, and I feel as if I have been on an intensive retreat.... I truly believe this is a masterpiece.

-Jill Palaez Baumgaertner, author of Finding Cuba

These are really splendid examples of the sonnet form with its difficulty, its logic, its power, its capacity to surprise.... The poet made me see the scriptures in a different way; as Christ did on the way to Emmaus, he opened them up for me.... My thanks for the gift of his spirit and his words.

- Ron Hansen, author of Atticus

Mercy's Face

Mercy's Face

Franciscan University Press (2001)

I believe David Craig to be the foremost religious poet of the day whose special gift it is to reveal the presence and care of God in all things - especially the most unlikely things. He gives us poems as rich in humanity as they are of the mystery of God, which is the same. He is doing the work he was called for, and we are blessed by the presence his words generate.

- Howard McCord, author of Collected Poems

This beautiful new volume gathers into one place the work of one of our best poets, drawn from the first twenty years of his remarkable journey. Through David Craig's luminous verse, we enter the realm of mystical realism, a vision of the real world recorded in a meticulous and cherished present, yet ecstatically observed to be participating in the eternal. Whether Craig is musing on a city stoplight glimpsed through a black iron fence or the sacred antics of Francis of Assisi on Mt. Alverno, everything for this poet pulses with God's breath and love. Moreover Craig is a master of both the short and long forms of his craft. This volume contains four of his most poignant narrative sequences, stirring in their historical weep and vibrant in the intimacy: his portraits of Peter Maurin, Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, and Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi. Selected also are a number of Craig's psalm translations and his remarkable sequence of sonnet meditations on Matthew's gospel. As always, Craig's language is immediate, expressive, rich in imagery, as subtly crafted and luminous as stained glass. We are greatly enriched by this poetry, by its rapture and wry tenderness, and by it's truthful telling of the holiness and passion of the human story, which is always, for this modern mystic God's story in our midst.

-David Impastato, editor of Upholding Mystery

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

The Roof of Heaven

The Roof of Heaven

Franciscan University Press (1998)

Craig writes as if his life depended on it, which it does. One finds here that rarest of gifts: a distinctively Catholic poetry in the long tradition of St. Francis, a poetry steeped in both the sacred as well as what the world calls the profane, the sheer weight and brokenness of it all made for the moment buoyant by measured song and light and Light.

-Paul Mariani, author of Salvage Operations

I have followed David Craig's poetry for some time now, relishing not only its quality but also its originality - how few in our time eschew the triviality and babble of so-called postmodernism, preferring the path of spiritual growth? What a pleasure to chart that progress, aesthetic and spiritual (for Craig the two are rightly inseparable), as we here can do by moving from the jewel-like earlier poetry to a tour de force like ANNA-MARIA TAIGI.

- Sydney Lea, author of Ghost Pain

Only One Face

Only One Face

White Eagle Coffee Store Press (1994)

David Craig is a mystic in the tradition of Hildegarde of Bingen, Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Merton. His provinces are those border countries where the spiritual and the material come nearly close enough to touch, places where a seeker traveling after golden clouds of truth and 'a beauty worth dying for' is as likely to find a gas station and 'Some guy in/Uniform who wants to sell you air.'

The poems of this talented writer are meditations on the world which is within us, the world of imperfect beauty which we find ourselves within, and the world of commitment and belief. David Craig shows us again how close are beauty and truth, and reminds us that there are certain life-and-death matters that can be celebrated only in poetry.

- David Citino, Poet Laureate of the Ohio State University

Like Taxes: Marching Through Gaul

Like Taxes: Marching Through Gaul

Scripta Humanistica (1990)

Like Taxes, by David Craig, is an impressive book. In an age dominated by secular and characterized by the pretentious and trivial, we are fortunate to have a book so rooted in authentic experience, and serious concern. Craig is eager for the fullness of the religious experience, but he does not let himself be deceived by the superficial religious. He is a subtle enough theologian to know that God hides in strange places, and reveals Himself as He wills, not as mortals might imagine. The best way to encounter Him is to get on with your life - driving cab, talking with friends, eating supper - and staying as alert as the hunter is for the deer. These are the hunter's poems.

- Howard McCord, author of Collected Poems

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Peter Maurin and Other Poems

Peter Maurin and Other Poems

Cleveland State University Poetry Center (1985)

David Craig is an unusual poet - first because he writes religious poetry in our secular age and second, and more importantly, because the poetry he writes does not try to convert or shame. But while this poetry belongs to the tradition of celebratory and mystical religious poetry, it does not shun ordinary life or language and it does not avoid contact with sinners or the anti-poetic. Nor does it make faith easy. It simply tries to say: Faith, yes, reality, yes, and hope, somehow.

- Mary Crow, former Poet Laureate of Colorado

The Sandaled Foot

The Sandaled Foot

Cleveland State University Poetry Center (1980)

These poems are the story of that profound reconciliation which enables Francis and those sparrows who followed after to lie down with the lion and the snake and expose their feet to everything there is. Like Francis, these poems are disarmingly simple and unassuming, but you may have to remove your shoes, and more, to read them.

- Fr. Murray Bodo

Anthologies Co-Edited by David Craig (with Janet McCann)

These anthologies are like three large tables, brimming with good food. Excellent orthodox fare can be had here, but so can food for stranger palates. God can sort it all out. And may He have mercy on all of us!

Francis And Clare In Poetry: An Anthology

Francis and Clare in Poetry: An Anthology

Saint Anthony Messenger Press (August, 2005)

Francis and Clare in Poetry: An Anthology is a comprehensive collection of poems written by and about Saints Francis and Clare. The poetry in this anthology is as timeless and memorable as the masters who wrote them.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry

Place of Passage:
Contemporary Catholic Poetry

Story Line Press (2000)

The spiritually satisfying and intellectually challenging poems in this anthology exhibit the range of Roman Catholic poetry being written today, from the striking devotional poetry of Pope John Paul II, to the translucent, soul-awakening poems of Gabriela Mistral. Arranged by use of the liturgical calendar, the feasts and season of the Church are interpreted and reflected upon by well-known poets such as Annie Dillard and Denise Levertov, as well as by talented emerging poets. Wrought with poems of struggle as well as poems of triumph and joy, this anthology addresses the idea of spirituality as explored through poetry.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Odd Angles of Heaven: Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith

Odd Angles of Heaven:
Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith

Harold Shaw Pub (1997)

Poetry begins in the world of the natural-what is around us, in our hearts and imaginations. But the special gift of the poet is to see more than what is there--to go beneath to deeper meanings, to talk about dark nights, epiphanies, and spiritual quests. Odd Angles of Heaven provides a broad spectrum of some of the finest contemporary poets. As they speak with truth, courage, and conviction, you will find handholds for your own spiritual journey.

(from back cover)

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Books of Fiction

I'd say that this fiction was written "with my left hand," except for the fact that I'm left-handed. And so it was.

The Cheese Stand Alone was my first go at it. It's a fictional spiritual autobiography, a lyrical attempt to do something of an Augustine--if he were a contemporary cab driver.

Our Lady of the Outfield was a chance to mix two of my passions: our dear Mother and baseball. I mean writers have mixed baseball with everything else, so it seemed like a great idea. The book also addresses the question: Why doesn't Mary appear in Times Square. (Hint: It wouldn't matter.)

A Communion of S(aints) is a satire which takes a look at odder Christian efforts to establish community. I did it POD, pulled it early despite the four copies sold. Too much Swift, not enough O'Connor.

Our Lady of the Outfield

Our Lady of the Outfield

CMJ Marian Publishers (2003)

Our Lady of the Outfield is intelligent, fun and moving, and it is also right. God's invisible world is intricately intertwined with out human world, and while mystics know this best, some lovers of sports, especially Indians' fans, know it keenly too. Not that we can figure it out any better than mystics can, but if God numbers every hair, why shouldn't His Mother cover the outfield - most often as our Lady of Silence or Mater Dolorosa, but at times, wonderfully, as the joy of all who sorrow? David Craig knows that it happens, and he tells us about it with Joy.

- Fr. Robert Pelton, Director of Priests, Madonna House Apostolate

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

The Cheese Stands Alone

The Cheese Stands Alone

CMJ Marian Publishers (1997)

Taxi-driver James Bailey flees the ruin and emptiness of his life by heading off to Fargo. Although he never gets there, he does find out that the grace he had imagined in far-out places has been tagging along with him all the time. In Bailey, author Craig enacts in a rollicking manner Josef Pieper's idea of man as "Status Viatoris" (Being-on-the-Way) and shows that a ministry can even be found driving a taxi. Craig show beautifully how grace turns up in the strangest places, and, in a manner worthy of Fitzgerald, magically evokes the graced land which is America and her people.

- Dr. Bill Davis, Scholar & Friend

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com [Click here]

Communion of S(aints)

A Communion of S(aints)

iUniverse (2003)

How is a Catholic to know if he or she is orthodox enough? Is there a checklist somewhere, a politically correct quiz? The Bishops might be a place to turn, but to what extent can you really trust them? A Communion of S(aints) is, by turns, a gentle, affectionate, scathingly satirical look at Catholic America's attempt to remain faithful within the hallowed walls of academia. Besides delivering a basketful of laughs, it serves up a profoundly humane version of what it means to stomp the firma.

(from back cover)

About David

David Craig and Familly David Craig has published nine collections of poetry: THE SANDALED FOOT (Cleveland State University Poetry Center,'80), PSALMS (Park Bench Press, '82), PETER MAURIN AND OTHER POEMS (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, '85), MARCHING THROUGH GAUL (Catholic University of America, '90), ONLY ONE FACE (White Eagle Coffee Store Press, '94), THE ROOF OF HEAVEN (Franciscan University Press, '98), MERCY'S FACE, NEW & SELECTED POEMS, 1980-2000 (Franciscan University Press, '00), SONNETS FROM MATTHEW, Franciscan University '02), and HIVE OF THE SAINTS (iUniverse, 2005). He has, as well, published three works of fiction: one a fictional spiritual biography, THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE (CMJ Press, '97), one a novella, OUR LADY OF THE OUTFIELD (CMJ Press, '00), and one a satirical novel, A COMMUNION OF S(AINTS) (iUniverse, '03). His poetry has been widely anthologized, most significantly in David Impastato's UPHOLDING MYSTERY for Oxford University Press where he shared space with only 12 other poets in the English-speaking world. Thirty-two of his poems are included there. In 1994 he co-edited, with Janet McCann, an anthology of contemporary Christian poetry for Harold Shaw Publishers entitled ODD ANGLES OF HEAVEN, and in May of 2000 they released an anthology of contemporary Catholic poetry from Story Line Press entitled PLACE OF PASSAGE. Currently, the two of them are working on an anthology of Franciscan poems for St. Anthony Messenger Press, which is due out in '05. It will be called POEMS OF FRANCIS AND CLARE. He holds M.F.A. and Ph. D. degrees from Bowling Green State University and teaches Creative Writing as a Professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He lives in Wintersville, Ohio with his wife Linda and their three children, David Thomas, Jude Francis, and Bridget Jean.

Dr. Craig in the News

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2006

English Professor's Poetry Selected Among "Best" of Christian Literature

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—The work of a Franciscan University professor acclaimed as one of today's foremost religious poets will be featured among the "best" of Christian literature in a new reference series volume.

Mercy's Face (2000), a collection of poetry authored by English professor Dr. David Craig, is one of approximately 500 titles selected by Salem Press for the Christian literature volume of its Masterplots series, due out in 2007.

The volume, which will include essays that cover classics of Christian literature such as Acts of the Apostles and St. Augustine's City of God, also will feature modern selections such as C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings; Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, and other papal encyclicals; and No Greater Love by Mother Teresa.

"It's a nice little surprise God springs on you once in awhile," says Craig, whose repertoire includes nine collections of poetry, three co-edited anthologies, three novels, and an unpublished play about Blessed Margaret of Castello. Craig and his 13-year old son, David, are also currently working on "The Queen's Gambit," a novel geared toward a middle-school age audience.

Dr. John Holmes, Craig's colleague in the English Department and a past contributor to the Masterplots series, says that given the tremendous scope of the selections, "just to be included at all is quite an honor."

Holmes pointed out that the series is one of the first stops for students researching scholarly criticism of a work. "Craig's book might start showing up on more curricula," he said.

The Masterplots II: Christian Literature volume will also include essays on several works by poets featured in the chapbook series edited by Craig and published by Franciscan University Press.

Craig received his undergraduate degree in English from Cleveland State University, an MA in English from Colorado State University, and a master's in fine arts in creative writing and a doctorate in English from Bowling Green State University. Since 1988 he has taught a variety of courses at Franciscan University, including Studies in Poetry, Creative Writing, and Modern Poetry. A member of the American Poetry Society, he and his wife of 14 years, Linda, live with their three children in Weirton, West Virginia.


Who is this Holy Spirit,
And what is He doing in the eggplant?

I hope you find work here that claps its hands, like the mountains of the Psalms, work that sings a new song unto the Lord, in bass as well as in higher registers. It's ardently Catholic stuff, sacramental, via the spirituality of the Servant of God Catherine Doherty-a spirituality which I gathered, mostly through osmosis, as I found myself returning again and again to Madonna House in Canada, from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties, usually for about two months at a time. They fed me, they prayed with me. Their "hospitality of the heart" changed my life, and I am in their debt.

The poetry herein moves basically from joyful little dythrambs in praise of the Trinity to a poetry which more directly involves the intellect. From one perspective it's a process which seems to reverse the usual monastic route: from meditation to contemplation. But those early poems were happy because there was infused Joy. I hadn't known the Holy Spirit mattered or existed really, and so that became the message. Later on I found and still find myself searching through the darkness of faith, with joy still, yes, but with soberness too because, after all, salvation is a tenuous thing, a pure gift. And since I have this gift for screwing things up, I personally need to meditate intensely and often, to fall on my face on a hourly basis.

Fiction? Well, I did it because I teach it, though one critic reviewed THE CHEESES STANDS ALONE as poetry. (The Sewanee Writers Conference actually liked the prose better than the poetry, so go figure.)

Along with an extraordinary friend, Janet McCann, I've edited three anthologies of Christian poetry. In a way, these are a different kettle of fish. They are an attempt, at least on my part, to offer the general secular poetry-reading audience something of the Truth--who Jesus is. The goal was and is not to present a lot of bad pietistic poetry. (The Kilmer 50's had done that decades before.) No, we've been after the best poetry we could find, and often that has not been glowingly orthodox. But I figure why not cull those voices and allow these fence-sitting poets to read the orthodox poems too. As Peter Maurin one said, the truth alone should attract. May it be so.

I'd like to leave you a comment of Leonard Trawick's, the long-time co-editor for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, the folks who published "Pentecost."

"You know that poem really wouldn't have worked with any other vegetable."