Oranges from Dominic's Tree

Matthew Powell, O.P.


The title of this anthology, Oranges From Dominic’s Tree, comes from the tradition that Saint Dominic planted an orange tree in the garden of the Priory of Santa Sabina in Rome. A series of oranges trees have grown in that garden for almost nine hundred years, each taken from a shoot of the previous tree. (In her poem, The Orange Leaf, Sister Mary Stanislaus McCarthy commemorates that tree.) Dominic's tree still produces oranges. The orange is an appropriate metaphor for the poem. A good poem, like a good orange, should be small, beautiful, flavorful and nourishing. The reader or the listener should be drawn to its compact beauty, enjoy the experience of consuming it and, ultimately, be nourished by it. We might also compare a poem to a preached retreat, a series of lectures or a theological treatise as we might compare a delicately carved cameo to a wall size mural. One is not better than the other because of size; in its own way each can draw the listener/ reader/ viewer toward goodness, truth and beauty. Some great sermons and books survive the ages. So do some poems. A person may remember the lines of a cherished and meaningful poem for a lifetime. Father George Cochran expressed this well in For Meg, Who Wanted a Poem: “Color fades as the dead leaf curls, but a poem will sing in your brain forever.”

Reading poems in the back of the breviary (the book of the Divine Office) prompted me to begin to collect spiritual poems for personal meditation and prayer. Because of my background in both speech and English I have long been interested in the oral performance of poetry and for many years I taught a course in the oral interpretation of poetry. (To experience the pleasure of spoken poetry, read Father Damian Magrath's Creation out loud or ask someone to read it to you.) Those factors, combined with my desire to preserve the literary works of Dominicans, culminated in the creation of this book.

This anthology celebrates the creative sharing through poetry of the fruits of the contemplation of thirty-three Dominicans. The fourteen friars, ten sisters and nine members of what was formerly known as the Third Order wrote and published in English from the early nineteenth century to the present. Several, such as Father Paul Murray, Brother Antoninus and Mother Rose Hawthorne, are well known. Others are nearly forgotten or neglected talents such as Michael Field, the pen name of two women tertiaries; and John Gray, rumored to have been the inspiration for Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the subtitle of this book I have used the term "selected poems" because there may well be Dominicans who have published in English that I have overlooked. This is the result of my shortcoming as a researcher and not of the quality of their poems. With that limitation in mind, I hope that the reader will come to recognize and appreciate poetry as an authentic sharing of the fruits of contemplation.

List Price: $14.95
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
148 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1623110222
ISBN-10: 162311022X
BISAC: Poetry / General