Alumni Blog: Fr. Steve Poetry

National Poetry Month

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 2:22 PM PDT

Fr. Steve Hands Crossed


Each summer we showcase Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J.’ s reading list and it’s always a big hit. As a university president, it should come as no surprise that Fr. Steve is an avid reader, but did you know he is also a poetry aficionado? In honor of National Poetry Month, we spoke to Fr. Steve about his passion for poetry and got the inside scoop on his favorite poems and those poets he thinks you should discover.


Q: Fr. Steve, what are your five favorite books of poetry?

A: Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

  • The Stream and the Sapphire by Denise Levertov
  • Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch
  • Collected Poems 1945 – 1990 by R. S. Thomas
  • The Grace of Necessity by Samuel Green

Q: What is your favorite poem?

A: “A Night in Ireland” by Anne Porter in Living Things

Q: What makes that your favorite poem?

A: It is a condensed story of great depth, beautifully expressing experience, dream, youth, and faith.  It has a wonder quatrain:

“He said You’ve come too soon

Go back into the towns

Live there as love’s apprentice

And God will give you his kingdom”

I can’t beat that for expressing the very purpose of my life in a simple, profound way!

Q: What is it that you enjoy about reading poetry?

A: Reading poetry for fifteen minutes each day is for me like prayer.  Poetry takes me below the surface, quotidian, experience of life into its more interior, intimate, holy depths.  I think of poetry as going beneath the soil of life to the tender roots of what is emerging in my life, the more nuanced, personal sources of life.  This is a holy place in which to dwell.  In my experience, there is nothing like poetry, when consistently read, for allowing access to this sacred depth.  Reading poetry every day teaches a person how to read poetry; it explains itself when faithfully practiced.

Q: Who is a poet you think is under the radar that you’d like other people to know about?

A: Mary Stewart Hammond, especially her Entering History.  I discovered her poetry from a display of multiple copies of this book in a New York City bookstore, bought it out of curiosity, and found a treasure.  I would read anything she wrote.