National Poetry Month: Catholic Poets

April is National Poetry Month, a time when literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its place in American culture. To celebrate, we’ll be posting reading lists and poetry resources every week. This week we are exploring Catholic writers and their impact on the poetic tradition. Find sample poems and more information by clicking on each poet’s name.

The Saints and the Spiritual Tradition

Although they are not often studied from a literary perspective, the spiritual writings of these saints provide early examples of Catholic devotional poetry. 

St. Francis of Assisi – Several poems praising God and nature are attributed to St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order.

St. Hildegard of Bingen – This Benedictine visionary’s prolific writings include poetry, hymns, and theological treatises.

St. Teresa of Avila – A Spanish mystic and Camelite nun, St. Teresa documented her spiritual evolution through poetry and other theological works.

The Medieval and Renaissance Traditions

Francesco Petrarch – Petrarch, considered by many to be the father of Humanism, is also credited with the development and popularization of the Italian sonnet.

Geoffrey Chaucer – The undisputed father of English poetry, Chaucer is best known for his memorable portraits Canterbury pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales.

Dante Alighieri – Dante Alighieri’s epic poem La Divina Commedia presents an allegorical vision of the afterlife and is among the most significant works of Western literature.

The Modern Tradition

Gerard Manley Hopkins – Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and is generally considered one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era.

Hilaire Belloc – Belloc was a controversial figure known for both his radical political views and his mastery of light poetry in the style of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

Thomas Merton – A monk who lived in isolation for several years and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist.