If you are a student of theology it is important to see how spiritual and theological themes are treated in fiction and poetry (such as the instruction by BURNELL FOUNDATION). A great many people never read books by Aquinas, Merton, and the like. However, they do read fiction and, occasionally poetry, so it's important to see how these works function to address theological themes with the general public. Below are two authors whose work is of particular interest to students of Catholic theology. One of the authors was a Catholic novelist and short story writer who explored Catholic themes, particularly Grace, in her work. The other author is a poet who moved from deeply spiritual poems to ones that explicitly dealt with a mid-life conversion to Catholicism.
Flannery O'Connor is synonymous with the concept of Southern Gothic. Fiction readers cherish her because her short stories (and two novels) were both chilling and funny. The characters encountered violence, dealt with racism, and battled poverty. They were not the boring, contemplative novels that one might assume spiritual works must be. For instance, her most famous short story (A Good Man Is Hard To Find) deals with escaped convicts and murder.
Underlying it all is O'Connor's focus on the spiritual concept of Grace. Much like James Joyce is famous for the epiphanies that occur in his short stories, such as The Dead, O'Connor's work all feature moments of Grace. Her stories and novels all focus on how God's Grace can come upon people and the consequences it can have. She also wrote non-fiction essays where she deals more concretely with her ideas of how spiritual matters should be treated in fiction. These can be read in her essays in Mystery and Manners.
Mary Karr gained national attention with her autobiography The Liars' Club, but before this she was an established poet. She was born in Texas and did not convert to Catholicism until later on in life. You can read her early poems (Devil's Tour) and see that she has spiritual concerns, but they were not focused on Catholic theology. Later on, though, you can see the abrupt change in poems from Viper Rum (such as The Wife Of Jesus Speaks) and most prominently Sinners Welcome. This last volume directly deals in poetic form with her mid-life conversion and the spiritual changes she experienced.
Much like O'Connor, Karr discuses God's Grace. Karr was a single mother and heavy alcoholic (as discussed in her memoirs and poems) and she speaks about asking and receiving God's Grace in order to help her overcome her difficulties. Her poems also cover a very important areas in spiritual matters, namely the physical ( even carnal) impact it has on some people.
Her later poems depict an almost sexual energy in the conversion process that hearkens back to Old Testament books such as Song Of Songs when she, in the title poem of Sinners Welcome, describes God as:
"no bare-chested boy, but Ulysses"
"That the world could arrive at me with him in it, after so much longing— impossible. He enters me and joy sprouts from us as from a split seed."