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Idiot Psalms: New Poems

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  97 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A new collection from one of our favorite poets. Fourteen “Idiot Psalms,” surrounded by dozens of other poems, make this his most challenging collection yet.

“Idiot Psalm 1”
O God Belovéd if obliquely so,
 dimly apprehended in the midst
 of this, the fraught obscuring fog
 of my insufficiently capacious ken,
 Ostensible Lover of our kind—while
 apparently aloof—allow
Paperback, 96 pages
Published February 1st 2014 by Paraclete Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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 ·  97 ratings  ·  16 reviews

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J.A.A. Purves
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
When you read this little book of poems, two things happen.

First, you find yourself caught up with Cairns in a striving and reaching, a sort of grasping for something more - a deeper meaning, “a glistening, a quality, a presence of light” that seems, with the help of these poems, to just be almost ... there. The enthusiasm in his poetry for trying to understand the deeper meanings of things, of words, and of feeling is infectious. He makes words mean more. He makes ideas go farther than you woul
Danielle Routh
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some of the poems are just a tad too oblique for me (as another reviewer commented, there is sometimes a "better hint of potential than an example of it"), but when Cairns is good, he's really good. Favorites in chronological order:

To What Might This Be Compared?
Speculation along the Way
Ex Oriente Lux
Draw Near
Idiot Psalm 14

"Suddenly, with little warning, I become / for the moment more fully awake."
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this little book of Christian poetry at the gift shop of the Queen of Angels Monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel in Saint Benedict, Oregon. The sisters don't have all that much shelf space in their bookstore, so they don't offer junk. Scott Cairns earned his B.A. from Western Washington University in 1977, an M.A. from Hollins University in 1979, an M.F.A. from Bowling Green State University in 1981, and a PhD from the University of Utah in 1990. He has taught at Kansas ...more
Emily Zell
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my poetry professors said that good poetry tends to speak to your intuition before your intellect, and that is so true of Cairns’s poetry. There were times I found myself with tears in my eyes and overwhelmed by the beauty and cadence of his words, yet could not explain to you what the poem was even about. This book was excellent, and I am eager to read it again more slowly and intricately in the future, but I am glad I read it as a whole and just soaked it in first. Highly recommend.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Collection of religious poetry; I enjoyed most but didn’t really love any. Strangely, I can’t remember where I heard about this author...I would read more by him but wish I knew how this ended up on my radar!
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Granted I'm extremely generous in rating, but even with that...a wonderful book of poetry, especially for an idiot soul such as myself. (I have the book - paper, not the e-book.)
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished this just as we’re headed to Easter. Great timing. : )
Joshua Novalis
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just re-read this in 2019, roughly 4 years after I first encountered the collection. Idiot Psalms still remains one of my favorite collections of poetry. Scott Cairns speaks directly to that inner longing within me, seeking to apprehend the divine mystery amidst and within worldly joys and woes. I expect to grow old alongside this book.

Some of my favorites:

Another Road Home
Idiot Psalm 3
Two Trees
Speculation Along the Way
Heavenly City (Ouranoupoli)
Ex Oriente Lux
When I Say I Ache for Yo
Jamie Dougherty
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Considering naming my band The Fragile Surround. Some amazing stuff, but starts to get a little repetitive by the end.
Favorites, chronologically:
Irreducible is what I'm after
A Word
And Why Theology?
Idiot Psalm 3
The Fragile Surround
Idiot Psalm 5
And Yet Another Page and Yet
Idiot Psalm 6
Speculation along the Way
Slow Boat to Byzantium
Idiot Psalm 13
Erotikos Logos
Idiot Psalm 14
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This slow pilgrim reclines on an amber-lit and comfortably cushioned desk chair altogether anguished, disgruntled, grumpy, humbled, perhaps, insufferable. These idiot psalms suggest to this dear and idiotic psalm reader a heightened sense of agency if not urgency to slow way down in the early late hours of our reading habits and a particularly scrupulous attention paid choice word by choice word.
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Cairns' best collection to date, for my money. Nevertheless, I suspect it will prove less accessible to readers unfamiliar with, at very least, his spiritual memoir or perhaps one of his poetry volumes from the early 2000s. Having that bit of context clarifies, for instance, why the idiot psalms are attributed to "Isaak" and where several of the poems are set. (Saint Isaak of Syria is his name saint; Cairns has visited Mount Athos in Greece a number of times.)
Fr. Ted
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I am only an occasional reader of poetry, but I do appreciate Cairn's poetry, much of it is related to themes in the Orthodox Church. Several very good poems in this collection, though this would not be my favorite of his books. His Idiot Psalms are a clever retelling of psalmody in a modern mode.
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I can hear Scott's voice in these poems, perhaps because I've heard them read aloud several times. But then there is also the delicate infusion of orthodoxy and negation, subtle wit, and love of the body.
David Jones
May 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Cairn's work is difficult to access. It reads like a personal diary, beautiful in form, but a better hint of potential than an example of it.
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Scott Cairns is a very good poet, whom I really enjoy. For whatever reason, this collection remains opaque to me. Perhaps I am not Orthodox enough.
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: festival-2014, poetry
There are a few truly captivating poems in this collection. Somnambulant, When I Say I Ache for You, and Idiot Psalm 14 are my favorites.
Sarah Boerner
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Jan 25, 2016
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Dec 31, 2019
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rated it it was amazing
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