Working it Out with George Herbert & Joseph Womack
Would you like to deepen your devotional reading?
Have you always wanted to understand great poetry?
Working it Out may be just what you need!
In Working it Out, you will study the work of George Herbert, a 17th-century poet, with an emphasis on seeing the movement of thought within each poem. Though Working it Out was written primarily as a devotional, the book models a thoughtful method for reading and understanding poetry in general.
How can Working it Out help me understand poetry?
Over the course of a year, author Joseph L. Womack, a retired professor, attorney, and minister, walks the reader through fifty-one carefully-selected poems, studying one per week. He models an orderly method of approaching poetry; one which will show you how to understand:
• The Big Picture—what the poem is about.
• The Parts of the Picture—a stanza-by-stanza explication of the poem.
• The Parts of the Picture Come Together—a look at the movement of thought through the poem.
When a foundation of understanding is established, you may choose to move into the devotional elements of each chapter, which include:
• Reflections—questions for personal meditation.
• Scriptures for Further Reflection
By the time you finish a year of study in this book, you will have a structured method that you can use to read and understand any poem. Womack’s models will help you see how a poet can use tone and nuance, as well as a variety of literary devices, to convey an idea.
Trade paper; 6 x 9″; 216 pages; $17.95.
Is Working it Out a complete poetry course?
Working it Out does not contain everything you will ever need to know about poetry. For instance, it does not include step-by-step guidance in meter. However, we provide a growing body of supporting instruction on this site, and I expect that students will also be studying poetry as part of the Excellence in Literature curriculum and/or the McGuffey Readers.
As you probably know if you’ve read many of my articles, I believe that immersion is one of the best ways to learn something. Working it Out will immerse you in the challenging but rewarding poetry of one of the most enduring spiritual poets of the seventeenth century. By the end of the year, you will have gained a much greater understanding of how poetry works, and will have tools you can use for the analysis of other poetic works.
Why study George Herbert?
According to Professor Jerry Root in The C. S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia, “[George] Herbert was arguably C. S. Lewis’s favorite Lyric poet.” Root notes that there are “elements of Herbert’s honesty and self-effacing manner that prefigure a similar quality in Lewis’s own work.”
In Womack’s capable hands, Herbert’s poetry is a path, not only to a deeper understanding of poetry and literature, but also to a closer walk with God. Whether you choose to enjoy it on your own, in a classroom or co-op, or with family or friends, you will be glad you spent a year in Working it Out.
From the back cover of the first edition:
The Apostle Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to “work out your salvation.” George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican priest, worked out his salvation in his poetry as he portrayed “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master.”
George Herbert was a member of a distinguished family, a scholar at Cambridge, a member of the English Parliament, and, finally, a priest in the Anglican Church and a rector of a small rural parish. Most noteworthy, however, was his poetry. In it Herbert made his great contribution to English literature and Christian Spirituality.
As Harold Bloom points out in The Best Poems of the English Language, there are only a few extraordinary devotional poets in the English language…by any standard George Herbert is the devotional poet proper in English.”
In this book are over 50 poems that reveal the spiritual struggles of, and the peace found by, this celebrated devotional poet. Each of the poems is presented and then followed by a commentary on the poem along with reflections designed to enable the reader to connect with the poems on a personal level. The purpose of the book is to assist the reader in understanding and experiencing the wholeness of George Herbert’s poetry and thereby to enable the reader to come to a better understanding of God’s workings in his or her life.
About the Author
Joseph L. Womack has degrees from Baylor University, The School of Law of The University of Texas at Austin, and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia. He has taught English literature at Stetson University, was an attorney for 20 years with the U. S. House of Representatives, and before retirement, served as an ordained minster for three churches. He and his wife Cynthia make their home in Virginia.
Working it Out is not just a devotional guide; it’s also a very helpful example of how to get the most from reading poetry. I recommend it both for learning and for pleasure. It’s also recommended in the second and fourth levels of the Excellence in Literature curriculum.
Trade paper; 6 x 9″; 216 pages; $17.95.
If you have a book group, co-op, private school, or other group, and you’d like to purchase five or more copies of WIO, please contact us for a quantity discount.