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Compass of Affection
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About the Author

Scott Cairns is the author of five previous collections of poetry: The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, and Philokalia. With W. Scott Olsen, he co-edited The Sacred Place, a collection of prose and verse celebrating the intersections of landscape and ideas of the holy. His poetry and nonfiction have been included in Best American Spiritual Writing and other anthologies. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Image, and many other periodicals. He is currently Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri. His spiritual memoir, Slow Pilgrim, will be published in 2007.

Reviews

Scott Cairns (b. 1954), the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri, has won numerous awards for his dozen of poetry, memoir, essays, and translations. This book is no longer "new," but that's besides the point. It collects 85 poems from four of Cairns' previous books from 1985 to 2006. Cairns is a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, and that spiritual passion is evident in his poetry. These poems challenge both mind and heart. He's also a savvy social critic. Readers can decide for themselves, and there's no accounting for personal taste, but Annie Dillard graces the dust jacket of this book with this blurb: "Scott Cairns is one of the best poets alive." Among Cairns' many other books, reader might also enjoy Idiot Psalms: New Poems (2014), a collection of 53 new poems; and Endless Life; Poems of the Mystics (2007, 2014), which includes 116 "adaptations and translations" (paraphrases?) of the writings of 37 Christian mystics. --Journey With Jesus Cairns's warm, calm, personal tones win him respect in many quarters, but his core audience comes from his subject matter: the mysteries, consolations and consequences of Christian belief. Questions about how to live as a Christian, how to understand such theological concepts as eros and agape, as sacrifice and resurrection, give depth and seriousness to his verse. Familiarity not only with New Testament texts but with the Church Fathers, their methods of exegesis and sometimes parallel questions from Jewish Learning give Cairns a range of allusion and launching pads for his poems, as in the winning series 'Adventures in New Testament Greek." A poem from his first collection, The Theology of Doubt (1985), explores 'the sober forms / of worship, the forms love rakes// when the mind is rested" "Late Apocalypse," one of the 27 new poems, begins, "Blessed is anyone who reads much of anything, blessed / and most unusual." That poem, among his best, rises into a serious condemnation of our consumer-driven world. More often Cairns seeks compassionate ways to apply the lessons of theologians or of Christ to his own life; one does not need to be Christian, or even religious, to profit from what he finds. --Publisher's Weekly June 5, 2006 Cairns's warm, calm, personal tones win him respect in many quarters, but his core audience comes from his subject matter: the mysteries, consolations and consequences of Christian belief. Questions about how to live as a Christian, how to understand such theological concepts as eros and agape, as sacrifice and resurrection, give depth and seriousness to his verse. Familiarity not only with New Testament texts but with the Church Fathers, their methods of exegesis and sometimes parallel questions from Jewish Learning give Cairns a range of allusion and launching pads for his poems, as in the winning series 'Adventures in New Testament Greek." A poem from his first collection, The Theology of Doubt (1985), explores 'the sober forms / of worship, the forms love rakes// when the mind is rested" "Late Apocalypse," one of the 27 new poems, begins, "Blessed is anyone who reads much of anything, blessed / and most unusual." That poem, among his best, rises into a serious condemnation of our consumer-driven world. More often Cairns seeks compassionate ways to apply the lessons of theologians or of Christ to his own life; one does not need to be Christian, or even religious, to profit from what he finds. Publisher's Weekly June 5, 2006"

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