2020 Catholic Press Association honorable mention award, poetry
Drawing from the poetry of generations of esteemed writers, Gary Bouchard shows how poems often express the longings of the human heart as a kind of prayer. Emily Dickinson, Rev. Rowan Williams, Pope John Paul II, Christina Rossetti, Robert Frost, and Fr. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, among others, offer readers an inspiring path to reflect upon and pray with poetic verse.
Arranged under six engaging themes, each selection uses the words of poets as vehicles to prompt "heaven in ordinary" or to praise like "exalted manna"; to find the right "paraphrase" for your own soul or maybe sense your "soul's blood"; to muster up from your grief or anger "reversed thunder" or dare to articulate from your own personal anguish "Christ-side-piercing spear."
Gary M. Bouchard is the director of the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute at Saint Anselm College, where he has taught in the English department for over three decades. During those years he also served as department chair and as the college's executive vice president. A specialist in the field of early modern poetry, he is the author of Colin's Campus: Cambridge Life and the English Eclogue (2000) and Southwell's Sphere: The Influence of England's Secret Poet (2019). Gary is the consulting editor and a Catholic Press Association award-winning writer for Parable, the magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire.
In this beautiful anthology of familiar favorites and new discoveries, Gary Bouchard clearly demonstrates the marvelous intersections between art and belief, art and life. Bouchard not only teaches us to pray; he teaches us to live more deeply through the mystery of faith embodied in language. Never didactic, never pretentious, his sincere and enlightening prefaces and summaries for each poem are like being in the company of a beloved professor or an old friend. This thoughtful collection may be read in a variety of ways, but whatever approach the reader takes, Bouchard and his chosen poets awaken us to the joy and truth at the center of our collective and spiritual being. This is a book to cherish, to teach, and to share.
David A. King, Professor of English, Kennesaw State University
Bouchard's whole book is a poem, a psalm, a prayer . . . word becomes WORD. How? Bouchard connects each poem with a good dose of daily life and human yearning that . . . somehow . . . leads to prayer. He invites, nudges, and encourages readers to open a poem by linking it with their own experiences. His book includes a marvelous variety of poets and is like a modern psalmody worthy of praying.
Thomasita Homan, OSB, Oblate Director at Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kansas, and professor emerita at Benedictine College
Twenty Poems to Pray is a unique anthology that arranges twenty poems into six different thematic categories, all of which have to do with transition, rites of passage and various stages and seasons of ordinary life and the liturgical year. It may be read in a variety of ways, either methodically according to the calendar of the year, as a devotional companion, or in life moments relevant to select poems. However the book is enjoyed, it will-like prayer itself-enlighten and sustain the reader.
The Georgia Bulletin
I'm delighted to have this exquisite bouquet of poetic flowers selected by Gary M. Bouchard. He has culled and arranged them beautifully, drawing a range of the finest poets in the Christian tradition. Poetry is indeed prayer-a kind of incarnation language. And these poems will assist us in drawing close to God in contemplation. I recommend this for every Christian, an aid to satisfying devotional hours.
Jay Parini, author of New and Collected Poems, 1975-2015, Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College, Vermont