When reading poetry, we must force ourselves to slow down. Each word is important. Sometimes, we need to read the poem a few times before we grasp the image and emotion.
Since the medium of poetry forces us to slow down, we can learn principles about taking time to meditate on Scripture. Also, poems can provide us with rich spiritual insights, especially when the authors are believers in Christ.
The following list includes a selection of Christian women poets. Although these women come from a variety of Christian denominations and traditions, their poetry reveals their love for Christ and offers us valuable perspectives about life, hardships, and serving the Lord.
1. Phillis Wheatley
As the first African American to publish a book of poems, Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784) is an important person in American history. She is also significant because she was a follower of Christ. Her poems are filled with biblical allusions and reflect her faith.
As a child, she was taken from her home in Gambia and enslaved. The Wheatley family, who bought her, provided her with a classical education, which sparked her interest in poetry. Although she eventually received her freedom, the latter part of her life was difficult as she dealt with ill health and poverty.
Literary critics continue to study and discuss Phillis’ poems, including her most well-known work, “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” Although critics offer differing views about this poem, some scholars see it as a clever and subtle critique of slavery.
Advocating for equality, Phillis urges Christians to remember that Africans and other people of color “May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.” In other words, the good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone, and all people are equal in His sight (John 3:16; Galatians 3:28).
To read more of her poetry, visit the Poetry Foundation or obtain a copy of her collected works, such as Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings published by Penguin Classics.
2. Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was the first woman recognized as a poet in the American colonies. Modern literary critics prefer to examine Bradstreet’s poetry from a feminist perspective.
However, her faith in Christ was the most important aspect of her life, which is evident in her poetry. As a Puritan, Bradstreet prioritized her relationship with the Lord and sought to grow in godliness.
Many people find her poems accessible because she deals with human experience and relationships. For example, she speaks honestly about losing her house and possessions in a fire in “Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10, 1666.”
Bradstreet displays authentic emotion yet does not let these feelings cloud her focus. Referencing her eternal home, she wrote, “Thou hast a house on high erect/Framed by that mighty Architect.” Her words reflect the truth of Scripture, that “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, NLT).
Other well-known poems by Anne Bradstreet include “To My Dear and Loving Husband” and “By Night when Others Soundly Slept.”
While some readers may struggle with the older style of English in her poetry, they will find their efforts worth the time. We can gain inspiration and important insights about walking with God in Bradstreet’s works.
3. Christina Rossetti
Unlike Wheatley and Bradstreet, who are considered American poets, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English writer. She grew up in a family that displayed great talent, both in art and writing.
Although she is best known for her works of poetry and devotional literature, she also served at St. Mary Magdalene House of Charity in London from 1859-1870, which helped former prostitutes and other women.
Christians need to know about her poems because she often drew inspiration from the Bible. Even her works that are not explicitly devotional contain Christian themes, such as her narrative poem “Goblin Market.” She did not shy away from difficult subjects either, as evident in her poems about death.
In “Good Friday,” Rossetti discusses spiritual dryness. Unlike those present at the crucifixion, she feels no emotion at Christ’s death, comparing herself to a stone.
However, she cries out to Jesus for refreshment and renewed faith, saying, “But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; /Greater than Moses, turn and look once more /And smite a rock.” The Lord can transform a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).
Other important poems to read from Christina Rossetti include “A Better Resurrection,” “In the bleak midwinter,” and “Remember.” Some believers may already recognize her poems because of the church’s use of them in services during Lent and Holy Week. Regardless of familiarity, her poems are worth reflecting on.
4. Amy Carmichael
For most of her life, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) lived and served as a missionary in India. She spread the gospel and rescued girls from temple prostitution. Today, her legacy continues with the Dohnavur Fellowship.
Although many Christians have heard of Carmichael’s missionary work in India, her writings are not as well-known.
However, her writings display a strong love for God and challenge Christians to a deeper commitment and relationship with the Lord. Thankfully,CLC Publications offers many of Amy Carmichael’s works that would otherwise be out of print.
One of these books is Mountain Breezes. In this collection, readers can find poems on several topics, such as worship, practical ministry concerns, the beauty of the natural world, and poems for children.
Throughout her work, Carmichael displays a steadfast trust in God, which gave her hope during the struggles and sorrows of ministry.
In “Give Thy Love to Me,” she asks the Lord to give her the same love for others that He has for people. As she wrote, “Round me souls are dying, /Deep in darkness lying; /Thou didst love them unto death; /O give Thy love to me” (Mountain Breezes, 252). Readers will quickly see her love for Christ in the poems, a love that motivated her service to others.
5. Ruth Bell Graham
People know her as the wife of evangelist Billy Graham. However, Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007) had a ministry of her own.
In addition to raising five children, she wrote multiple books that have continued to encourage and inspire people. Some of these include Footsteps of a Pilgrim, Legacy of a Pack Rat, and One Wintry Night.
Although she originally wrote poetry solely to express her feelings, her poems were eventually published. In Sitting By My Fire Laughing, readers see Ruth’s down-to-earth perspective with a heart devoted to Christ. Often, her poems resemble prayers and can motivate other Christians to speak honestly to God.
For example, in her poem “Only You,” she prays for God to take away all the distractions that keep her from focusing on Him: “thoughts that ensnare, /a heart that is aching, /all crumpled by care, /unsatisfied, restless, /scarce able to pray/everything, everything /take it away.”
Like her other writings, her poems continue to encourage believers in their walk with the Lord.
6. Irina Ratushinskaya
Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017) was a poet and writer from Ukraine. In 1982, she was arrested by the Russian Soviet government and placed in a labor camp because of her “anti-Soviet” writings.
Even during her imprisonment, during which she suffered under severe conditions, Ratushinskaya continued to create poetry, writing verses on bars of soap. She documented her experience in Grey is the Color of Hope.
The topic of her poems included thoughts about her imprisonment, her struggle to find hope, and her faith in Christ.
We can learn from her trust in the Lord and refusal to hate her captors despite the abuse she suffered in the prison camp. Although her poetry is not as widely available, the books Beyond the Limit, Pencil Letter, and No, I’m Not Afraid contain her collections of poems in English.
7. Luci Shaw
Born in 1928 in England, Luci Shaw is a Christian poet and writer. Her writing has appeared in several journals and magazines, such as Image, Decision, and First Things. Widely published, her poems are examples of literary art infused with faith.
Her poetry often features images from the natural world, which connects readers to spiritual truths. In books such as Thumbprint in the Clay and The Generosity, she uses the inspiration of nature to reflect on God and faith. Also, her work Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation covers Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.
A helpful place to start reading Luci Shaw’s poetry is Sea Glass, which includes a selection of her best poetry. To find out more about her poems and other written works, visit her website here.
Why Does This Matter?
Poetry invites us to reflect on our lives. When a poet captures an experience or a moment through well-chosen words and images, they move us emotionally while also helping us to slow down. By reading poetry from women like those mentioned in this article, we can learn to think more deeply about the Bible and how faith affects our lives.
For further reading:
7 Inspiring Christian Black Women Who Impacted Change
What Does the Bible Say about the Value of Women?
How Did Jesus Treat Women in the Bible?
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.