A few years ago I picked up an issue of Poetry magazine and encountered Scott Cairns, who was described as a Christian poet with the modifier “Christian” in no way intended to be pejorative. As I read his work, and through an interview got to know a little bit of his thinking regarding faith and the production of poetry, I felt a sense of resonance.

Clearly Scott has a deep respect for the craft and art of poetry. Unlike too many self-proclaimed Xian poets, he does not see poetry as merely a means toward the end of proclaiming the Gospel, but rather as a creative endeavor endowed by God with innate worth. It is for this reason, I imagine, he is well received as a gifted poet beyond the confines churchianity.

Without further ado, I offer one of his poems.



—Katounakia, 2007

The cave itself is pleasantly austere,
with little clutter—nothing save
a narrow slab, a threadbare woolen wrap,
and in the chipped-out recess here
three sooty icons lit by oil lamp.
Just beyond the dim cave’s aperture,
a blackened kettle rests among the coals,
whereby, each afternoon, a grip
of wild greens is boiled to a tender mess.
The eremite lies prostrate near
two books—a gospel and the Syrian’s
collected prose—whose pages turn
assisted by a breeze. Besides the thread
of wood smoke rising from the coals,
no other motion takes the eye. The old
man’s face is pressed into the earth,
his body stretched as if to reach ahead.
The pot boils dry. He feeds on what
we do not see, and may be satisfied.
Scott Cairns – Poetry Foundation
The Flesh Becomes Word: The Incarnational Poetry of Scott Cairns
Scott Cairns – Wikipedia Article

4 Responses to “Eremite”

  1. Anthony Velez  

    * An Eremite is a religious recluse, one who withdraws from the distractions of society to seek God through ascetic practices and prayer.
    * In looking at a picture of Scott Cairns I was reminded of Joaguim de Almeida, the actor who played Col. Felix Cortez in “Clear and Present Danger.” So, he’s a good looking guy who is smart and writes poetry. I bet he’s got a fair share of women signing up to take his classes.
    * Honestly, another reason why Scott gets cred with me is that he went from being a Baptist to being a Presbyterian to being Orthodox. This supports one of my theories that Protestantism by and large does not have the spiritual resources to sustain a genuine embrace of the Arts.

  2. Roger Green  

    Your theory in the last sentence of your comment begs for clarification – what is “genuine embrace of the arts”? What are “the arts”, anyway? Some good Thomas Dorsey spirituals or Wesley hymns aren’t “the arts”? Are you saying that, by extension, Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox do genuinely embrace them?

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – You got me, and I have to admit that I am prone to sweeping generalizations. So, let me revise what I said, but first, let me identify what prompted that comment.

    When I look at the field of literature, particularly in the 20th century, it seems to me that those Christian authors who are respected by literary critics tend to be from liturgical traditions, particularly Catholicism and Anglicanism in the West. By comparison, I don’t see as many Protestant authors being praised for their literary and/or aesthetic merits. And so, it seems there is something about those two liturgical traditions that encourage souls to develop literary sensitivity in a way that the more Evangelical expressions of Protestantism seems to discourage.

    I am at work at the moment, so I will develop this a little later, and finally revise my hasty generalization.

  4. K.L.B.  

    Maybe it should be called “Thermite,” especially since you indicate he’s so “hot” looking.

    Or maybe, “Termite,” as in some underground critter that burrows into wood… “she-ite.”

    Whoops! Wrong “ite.”

    Sounds like a giant camping trip.

    He’s not in training to become another “Desert Father,” is he?