The four Benedictines—Anne McCarthy, Mary Ellen Plumb, Mary Miller and myself-- who live on the same inner-city block gather for prayer every morning and usually read some contemporary work as part of our praise.
Following our Lenten readings, we started Love Poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky. I have so many post-notes and bended pages marking favorite poems in this book that I’m not sure I could give it away in a yard sale.
Ladinsky is a wild man, taking writings from mystics of every tradition and interpreting them in ways that give us wings. Be warned. These translations are knockout punches that freely adapt the mystics words “to a few blue grass tunes or whiskey soaked jazz.”
The first mystic in the book is Rabia of Basra, a revered Muslim poet who preceded Rumi by 500 years. She was quite young when her parents died and she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Ladinsky writes, “Rabia may be a timely spiritual voice for women of this century who have suffered the trauma of unwanted touch and physical and sexual abuse.” Rabia was given her freedom at the age of 50 and spent her remaining years in prayer and meditation.
Here’s a Ladinsky’s translation of one of her poems:
Since no one really knows about God,
those who think they do are just
Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Hafiz, Catherine of Sienna, Kabir, Mira, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Tukaram are the other mystics chosen by Ladinsky “because of their ability to help us know our own sacredness, and because of their skill to awaken us to the wonder—and thus gratitude—of the common.”
I return to this book again and again and recommend it whenever possible. I’ve used it for my personal lectio and when leading lectio workshops and poetry writing retreats. Now I have a chance to sing its praises to all members of MOH through this blog and then post it on the Lectio page where we have a new feature, “Books for Lectio.”
You, too, are invited to visit the Lectio page and recommend a book that turned you into flame. What books nourished and freed you? Or to use Ladinsky’s image, “I hope you fall into this wine barrel (Love Poems from God) and crawl out legally drunk, and get arrested for doing something that makes God proud of you, like being too happy.” What books did that to you?