Dr. Philip Kolin, University Distinguished Professor in The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Arts and Letters, has published his fifth book of original poetry with the highly respected Catholic press--Kaufmann Publishing. Entitled Reading God's Handwriting: Poemsand available on Amazon.com, each of the book’s 50 poems is anchored in a Biblical parable, prophecy, setting, or allusion.
Kolin pointed out that "the title of my book is ambiguous; it can refer to God's handwriting as well as his handwriting in Scripture, nature and history." God's script/scripture is threaded through the metaphors, voices, and paradoxes of Kolin's poems.
The book opens with the poem "Omega" where God "fingerprints his presence" in "spheres, orbs, and gyres." "Everything comes in 0's, and nothing/From the one who never runs out of numbers." Fittingly, it ends with the poem "Heaven" where God tells readers about their "new neighborhood--Infinity."
All of Kolin's poems illustrate the monastic tradition of lectio divina, or going through the process of reading, pondering, assimilating, and then acting on Scripture. For instance, one of Kolin's lead poems, titled Lectio Divina, pictures monks looking for God's words in the architecture of a cathedral; another poem, "Praying the Icons," shows a Russian woman asking for help during one of Stalin's purges. The poem "An Army Nurse in Iraq" ministers to soldiers in a triage unit.
Divided into seven sections, one includes poems that give voice to a wide assortment of prophets and saints, including Ezekiel, Job, Habakkuk, St. Anne, John the Baptist, St. Joseph, the angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, Lazarus, and Martha. Other sections turn to "Epiphanies of Madonna and Child," "Nature," and the "Scrutinies."
Reading God's Handwriting has already received some glowing reviews from influential critics and poets.
In her review in America Magazine for Dec. 17, Diane Scharpe declared, “Kolin's best poems have a mystical--almost sacramental-- quality and seem reminiscent of works by Gerard Manley Hopkins," the famous 19th century Jesuit priest-poet.
Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner, the poetry editor for Christian Century, hailed Kolin as among "the growing tribe of very fine Christian poets" and found his "remarkably varied poems" . . . "take on the most expansive subjects." Citing Kolin's poem "Genesis," Baumgaertner praised Kolin for being able "to summarize the entire first book of the Bible in 15 lines with a catalog of images that capture its poetry, its main actors, its violence, and its promise" (Christian Century—Jan. 9, 2013).
Kelly Cherry, a widely published distinguished poet of faith, wrote "What a singular pleasure this book is. It espies the word of God in everything and translates it into beautiful, wise, poems whose precise images often startle us into thought."
An international authority on Tennessee Williams, Kolin has published more than 40 books on Shakespeare, African American drama, and business writing. He is also the editor of the Southern Quarterly as well as of Vineyards: A Journal of Christian Poetry.