Heaven in Ordinary: Poetry and Religion in a Secular Age

By David Jasper

A personal journey through poetry and faith, exploring the themes of five English poets in relation to Christianity and the Anglican tradition in particular.

ISBN: 9780718895419


Poets, in times of great faith and times of doubt, have expressed for us their sense of both the presence and the absence of God in language that is sometimes almost sacramental in its weight of beauty, love, fear, anger or despair. The poets considered here all relate, in some way, to the traditions of Anglicanism through the centuries, reflecting both a common humanity and a wide breadth of human experience as it struggles with God. Heaven in Ordinary is deliberately autobiographical in approach, as it is grounded in David Jasper’s own lifetime experience of reading poetry since his school years, and over four decades as a priest. The poets he so beautifully discusses have related both positively and negatively to the Christian faith and the Anglican tradition. Some are deeply religious, others are haunted by God and the divine mystery.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 160

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

David Jasper is both a priest, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Glasgow. He holds degrees from Cambridge, Oxford, Durham and Uppsala Universities and has taught for many years as Visiting Professor in Renmin University of China, Beijing. He is concerned with theology and the power of words, and with the poet as pastor and guide.


1. Introduction
2. Thomas Hardy: Faith and Doubt
3. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Words as Living Things
4. Thomas Traherne: Objects of Happiness
5. Sir Philip Sidney: High Matter in Noble Form
6. Sir Geoffrey Hill: The Strange Flesh Untouched
7. The Pastoral Tradition in English Poetry
8. Conclusion: or, Last Words

Reading List


Endorsements and Reviews

Jasper’s love of poetry and admitted inability to escape that Christian faith which has taken hold of him, release insights personal and profound. Through the five poets he has selected, Jasper seeks a gentle divinity, present in the world, far away from the apparent crass ruthlessness and drive of the current Church.
Rt Revd Robert A. Gillies, Formerly Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and Honorary Research Fellow in the University of Glasgow

Heaven in Ordinary takes us on an exhilarating reading journey into the heart of a territory that is at once endearingly familiar, and yet also astoundingly strange. This is an engaging, profound and moving book that is full of wonder. Like the poets and priests it celebrates, it is self-effacing and yet extraordinary.
Heather Walton, Professor of Theology and Creative Practice, University of Glasgow

Professor Jasper calls Heaven in Ordinary a ‘little book’. But, as you read, it dawns upon you that it is in fact a ‘big book’: in prose suffused by his love of words as living things, the author generously gives a searingly honest account of his lifelong love affair with poetry and particular poets. I cannot commend this book too warmly – it simply should be read for the love, insight, intelligence and more than occasional waspishness that grace and inform its pages.
Rt Revd Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway

The book is satisfying beautifully and personally written … It is Jasper’s intensely personal engagement with the poets whom he loves that commends this book: it is a delightful read that tells of a long and thoughful passion for the seriousness of the poet.
Frances Ward, in Theology, No 123, Vol 2, 2020

A deeply convinced and convincing reading of poetry and religion in and for a secular age.
Alison Jack, in Literature & Theology, June 2019