This week we look at one of John Donne's Holy Sonnets from the seventeenth century. This famous poem (#14, "Batter my heart") turns a poetic tradition of love and longing to religious ends, earnestly seeking God and questioning whether union with God will ever be achieved.
John Donne was an influential metaphysical poet who enjoyed wide fame in his own day, then went largely unread for two centuries, and then, saw his reputation radically revived in the early twentieth century. He was born into a Catholic family, converted to Anglicanism, and became a minister. Along the way, he wrote both "secular" erotic love poems and "religious" poems of many forms. This poem is one of the nineteen "Holy Sonnets" he wrote.
For a sequence on sonnets, this episode caps a mini-sequence in Poetry For All, which included a sonnet of Shakespeare's (episode 4), a reconception of the sonnet tradition by the Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay (episode 5), a set of erasure poems drawn from Shakespeare's sonnets by Jen Bervin (episode 6), and a return to the seventeenth-century sonnet tradition with John Donne (episode 7).
For more on John Donne, please see the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/john-donne