God and the Imagination
On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable

Paul Mariani

A noted biographer and poet interprets his craft and the poets who inspired him


"Scholarly yet passionate, learned yet accessible, these memoirs, interpretations, and generous appraisals bring to the study of contemporary poetry a perfect conjoining of sympathy, mastery, inventiveness, and a deeply felt religious faith. God and the Imagination is a brilliant, loving, radiant book."
—Ron Hansen, author of A Stay Against Confusion

"Mariani comes on as a modern working class Whitman who has not forgotten his origins. He writes a redemptive and humane criticism that attempts to preserve rather than to deconstruct or destroy. In Mariani's sympathy for the lives that have touched his, we see how this biographer of poets has extended that sympathy to his great subjects: William Carlos Williams, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Hart Crane, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. To read Mariani is to recognize a genuine love for poets and poetry is possible without tendentiousness or a theoretical agenda. Would that every poet writing in America today had an advocate as generous."
—Mark Jarman

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Poet, critic, biographer, and Catholic intellectual Paul Mariani delivers huge armfuls of experience and knowledge in this wide-ranging collection of twenty-four essays. As a man of faith in a secular world, Mariani brings to light issues surrounding spirituality and poetry through discussions of the Gnostics, Roman history, the Bible, John of the Cross, Rilke, Robert Pack, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, and the poets he most admires--Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Robert Lowell.
Charged with spiritual and intellectual awe, Mariani fully engages with his subjects, from their lives to their works to their grand impact on Mariani's own life as a poet. His prose flows easily from anecdote to analysis, from Paterson, the setting of Williams's great tribute poem, to Manhattan, where Mariani haunts old neighborhoods and the Brooklyn Bridge, searching for traces of Hart Crane. By infusing scholarly criticism with a personal voice, Mariani allows us to see the relationship between poetry and a sublime presence in the universe.
Serious reading for anyone interested in modern and contemporary poetry, God and the Imagination offers elegant and original insights into a wide variety of poetic concerns. But it is most extraordinary for its celebration of the lives of the poets, which allow us, in Mariani's words, "to recover what would otherwise be lost to time and silence."
Life of Poetry: Poets on Their Art and Craft

Page count: 304 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.25


List price: $25.95

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Paul Mariani is the author of Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius and five volumes of poetry, including, most recently, The Great Wheel. Besides several critical studies, he has also published biographies of Robert Lowell, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, and John Berryman. Mariani currently holds a Chair in English at Boston College.