Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The son and grandson of ministers in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church, Mark Jarman employs his skills as a writer to address essential aspects of the Christian faith. The poet was initially impressed by his maternal grandmother, Nora Pemberton, who was an unpublished poet and short-fiction writer, and his father, Donald Ray Jarman, who as a preacher had a masterful command of language. He was further inspired by British poet Donald Davie, whom he admired for his willingness to openly express his Christian faith in his poetry. Of him Jarman has written, “Davie’s religious life was intimately involved with this poetry. This realization . . . led me to engage my own religious beliefs directly in my writing.” Questions for Ecclesiastes continues a conversation about God, expressions of faith, and why faith matters in daily life begun in Jarman’s first book of verse, North Sea (1978), in which he initiated the theme of questioning the real-life applicability of Christian teaching and the example of Jesus.
Jarman is unique as a poet of Christian-themed verse because he challenges intellectual complacency. For him it is insufficient to mouth doctrine or espouse Jesus as a role model. For example, in the title poem, “Questions for Ecclesiastes,” Jarman narrates an autobiographically inspired incident in which a minister (his father) is called to the home of a young female suicide to offer the family comfort and religious...
(The entire section is 875 words.)
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