Poems for Practicing Courage and Hope
“Begin here,” says Bethany Lee, in her inspirational new collection, Etude for Belonging. “Now is the time for us to take courage.” And as you answer this invitation, you will find courage indeed, here among musings on galaxies and trillium, shipwrecks and spinning wheels, here where there is room for broken hearts, for healing, and for hope.
This book takes us on an uncharted course “out where the sea is always/turning into sky” and steadily guides us back to the love at the center, back to the place we all belong, “which is here/which is together.”
Like her beautiful first collection, The Breath Between, Lee’s Etude for Belonging manages to be simple and luxurious at the same time, hiding breathtaking and often daring choices in the spaces between words or lines, like a seamstress using solid gold thread on interior hems. I encourage readers to consider reading this book aloud to a loved one. There’s so much to take from these poems; it’s a joy to share the treasure you’ll discover with someone who may need it even more than you do.
—Benjamin Gorman, author of The Sum of Our Gods and Don’t Read This Book
Bethany Lee’s Etude for Belonging gives me hope at a time when it is most needed. Like the trees about which she writes in “Reaching Out,” each poem in this new collection offers profound connection to Lee and to the world she inhabits. I’m grateful for the sense of loving acceptance and community Lee crafts through her beautiful words—words that convey to the reader that “We can stand together.” That sense of unity, of belonging, is a gift.
—Melanie Springer Mock, professor at George Fox University and author of Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else
Bethany has done it again! This book is “the blessing / of a room where strangers sit / breathing unashamed / into a chosen silence.” Bethany is a curator of quiet spaces. She gently points us to the center, to “the swirling heart that binds us / all in place,” and whispers, “This could be the better.” Even if “there may come all I fear / and several horrible things I failed to consider,” this is a book to soothe and inspire.
—Joann Renee Boswell, author of Cosmic Pockets, poetry editor for Untold Volumes, skeptical mystic
Vital, beautiful questions spin like planets in Bethany Lee’s Etude for Belonging, circling around the miraculous sun of love. As readers, we are spun lovingly with her as she asks, “What does it cost to fall in love with the world?” The answer is joyously seeded throughout poems which are generous and knowing in the tradition of Hafez and Rumi and other poets of the world and soul. This is a welcoming book, a book of Yes that makes room for us all. It is a necessary answer to pain and destruction. May it carry, astonish, and change you.
—Annie Lighthart, author of Iron String and Lantern
There are promises here such as, “There is wholeness in the heart of things / and you are in the heart of the heart.” There are unexpected questions and loving answers. Bethany offers us a world that is real in the pain and grief, and alluring in the possibility of available beauty. She invites you to “stand near a window and sing in the mystery.” Don’t resist! Stand by this window. “As you wait / there will be transformation.”
—Peg Edera, author of Love is Deeper than Distance: Poems of love, death, a little sex, ALS demntia and the widow’s life thereafter
Bethany will take your hand, gently beckoning, “You’re not doing courage wrong, if it doesn’t feel brave.” She’ll ask you to stop and look at the stars, giving you enough space to let your sighs slip from your body. Then, when you are quiet enough to feel the heartbeat of the world, she’ll whisper in your ear, “How long can you suspend your disbelief?” Follow the notes of her song, dance together on the shoreline of creation, and don’t be afraid to join in on the chorus. Sing the song of being alive.
—juniper klatt, author of I was raised in a house of water and I wrote this naked
Bethany Lee’s poems speak plainly of the storms, pain, and hungers of daily life, offering a profound hope for transformation. Even so, “Hope is manual labor,” she writes. “Get right in there and mix up a batch.” These tender poems accompany the reader as they turn to this work, offering the language of nature, Spirit, and a radical acceptance of the reader themselves.
—Jennifer L. Hollis, music-thanatologist, writer, and the author of Music at the End of Life: Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage