The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.
–Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
Today, a significant gap exists between literary publishers and strictly religious publishers. Literary publishers occasionally publish books of spiritual depth, but few, if any, set out to do so as a mission and raison d’être. Religious publishers, on the other hand, tend to publish work that offers little appeal to readers outside a particular ideological group. Orison Books is a non-profit (501(c)(3)) literary press that aims to address this gap through its focus on the life of the spirit from a non-ideological standpoint.
Orison [“or-ə-sən”] is an archaic word that means “prayer.” We at Orison Books believe that the best spiritual art and literature call us to meditate and contemplate, rather than asking us to adopt any ideology or set of propositions. This type of art evokes the human experience of transcendence and explores the mysteries of being, and in so doing opens our minds and hearts to the divine and the possibility of becoming the fullest humans we can be. In our view, spiritual writing has little to do with subject matter. Rather, the kind of work we seek to publish has a transcendent aesthetic effect on the reader, and reading it can itself be a spiritual experience. Such work is not merely about spiritual contemplation, but itself leads the reader into profound contemplation. It is not merely about the sublime, but itself has a sublime effect on the reader. It is not merely about the mystery of being, but itself heightens the reader’s sense of the mystery underlying the fabric of our daily lives.
The poet Gjertrude Schnackenberg, in an interview with Jonathan Galassi, articulated a perspective on literature that resonates with our mission, and her words are worth sharing: “When I said that poetry tries and wants to make contact with reality, that is, with uttermost-being (truth, God, whatness, somethingness-nothingness, chaos-order)—to the Veda seers, the vibrating void; to the eighth-century Chinese poets, that-which-is-self-engendering; to mathematicians, a veil of numbers; to the Jewish mystics, the En-Sof; to Christian mystics, the indwelling of God and emanation of Christ in all things; to the animal kingdoms on earth, the starry night; to contemporary physicists, the excitation of superstrings; to cosmologists, the residue of an explosion of something to whose pre-explosion existence there is perhaps, as my friend Elaine Scarry once said to me, ‘no door’—I am referring very specifically and particularly to the material we are made from, this animated-in-us matter which we, in turn, express such a passionate drive to know (and which, in turn, has evolved a way to be known, through us, and is the source and object of our wonder and compulsion).”
Orison Books seeks to be broad, inclusive, and open to perspectives spanning the spectrum of spiritual and religious thought, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Orison Books will serve as a home for writers and readers of all backgrounds, religious or non-religious. In addition to publishing exceptional spiritually-engaged poetry, fiction, and non-fiction books, we will publish The Orison Anthology—an annual collection of the best spiritual writing in all genres published in periodicals the preceding year.
Additionally, Orison Books aims to contribute to the cultural conversations around spirituality and literature by hosting classes, symposia, and other public events.
Read a recent interview with Orison Books founder and editor Luke Hankins at the Best American Poetry blog here.
We cannot succeed without the contributions of those who support our mission of publishing exceptional literature that engages the life of the spirit, and of fostering cultural conversation around spirituality and literature. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today: Join us.