When I first saw prints from Louis Glanzman’s paintings of 12 women of the New Testament, something happened inside me. It was as if I suddenly recognized beloved sisters whom I had never seen before but knew in my heart. The paintings had a life of their own--unique, powerful and as real as any living woman. They rose from the prints and spoke to me. After a lifetime of knowing all about the women of the Gospels, I felt that at last I had actually met them. Indeed I had. They were women whom I had encountered and connected with in my own life. They were homemakers, sex workers, child runaways, crones, teachers, mothers, senior citizens--and all of them knew Jesus. All of them were archetypes who reflected the journeys, struggles, joys and dreams of women today.
I confess, with some humility, that I was somewhat surprised that a male artist could have so accurately and compassionately captured the personalities and feelings of these women in the Gospels--until, that is, I read more about Louis Glanzman and came to realize his awesome artistic credentials and talent. Among many other accomplishments, Glanzman has painted some of the most memorable covers for Time magazine (more than 80), The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post and many other publications. He has illustrated numerous children’s books, including the classic Pippi Longstocking series. His works occupy prominent space in public and private art collections throughout the United States and in Europe. His prolific illustrations, portraits and historical paintings have won him acclaim as one of America’s great artists. But for me Louis Glanzman was also the only man I knew who had met and understood the women in the Gospels on such a deep, intuitive level.
Glanzman was the catalyst for a personal spiritual experience that I knew had forever deepened my love and soul connection with the women he had painted. He had captured their souls in art. Driven by the power of this experience, I called Orbis Books (who I had learned were going to publish the paintings) pleading--practically demanding--that they choose me as the poet/author for the book. The publisher, Michael Leach, who was already putting together a short list of potential authors (among whom I was not included), was clearly impressed with my passion and conviction. "These are my soul sisters," I pleaded. "I know their stories, and they can only be told in poetry--for they belong to us all." In retrospect I am somewhat awed by my audacity. But it worked. The next day Mike called. I was to be the poet for Louis Glanzman’s paintings--an awesome and sacred task that left me not a little apprehensive in spite of my conviction.
The writing of Soul Sisters became as much a spiritual experience as a work of poetry. As I spent time with each woman, I came to a deepening understanding of who she was and what she had experienced. Entering into her story of 2,000 years ago, I tried to capture it in poetry and in so doing realized that I was also writing the stories of women I know today. The journey and its stories belong to us all. I knew that others, both men and women, would be blessed as I was to connect on a deeper level with the women around Jesus--our soul sisters.