“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.
These poems begin in familiar surroundings: newspaper clippings, snippets of history, Bible stories, and scenes embedded in our psyches such as an elementary school hallway. Their fulfillment, though, crosses into a place where Charles Darwin apologizes to Adam in Eden, or chants Jabberwocky to himself. A place where the stonemasons who build a cathedral abstain from swearing, and that abstinence is felt as a palpable blessing centuries later. A place where two patients who share a hospital room also share a clipboard with mingled notes for doctors and chaplains.
Pax is a book of peace, a book of love poems to the world. The poems within these pages ask us to wake to our own remarkable lives and our undeniable connections, to look with a steady eye at the demands of love. Whether considering insects, the soul, or the ghosts and thoughts that haunt us, this book insists that there is no reason to turn away. Let us redefine love and wreckage, time and weeds, it fearlessly states. Pax is that rare welcoming book that speaks to us like a wry and knowing old friend.
Like deep breaths drawn effortlessly in, the poems and images of Insistent Grace are satisfying to the core. Filled with the aromas of salt fog, summer grass, redwood creeks, eucalyptus, and bay, they weave together the human and the more-than-human worlds. In the time of global pandemic and climate crisis, Elizabeth Herron evokes Mother Nature’s insistent grace – a power that compels respect and can help us heal ourselves and our planet – if we are resolute.
Poet and singer, minstrel of hog-killing and connoisseur of barbecue, memoirist of affectionately named hogs, of family, work, and love – Shelby is a storyteller who can touch you like a sad Carter Family lyric or an old gospel song.
What if Mary wasn’t really a virgin? Could Jesus be an alien from another planet? How do we know we’re not all living inside of God? Poet and photographer Joann Renee Boswell invites us to travel with her into an encounter with the inconvenient complexities of earth-life and outer space, politics and religion, Bigfoot, feminism, Santa Claus, and spirituality – all tucked inside the Cosmic Pockets of life.
Charles Middleberg is a Holocaust survivor. But when you hear his story in person, he prefers to be called a witness.
Consider the moments in this collection – a mother is buried, a son is born, Alaska melts – each event a signpost. Reflect on the signs of rest and restlessness, simplicity and complexity, life given and taken and throbbing. This is the way of faith. We watch for truth’s brilliant appearance, and in the midst of our heartbreak-while-waiting, we pray. Jeffrey Johnson’s poems listen to the angels, they sing the doxologies, they pay loving attention to life. They are prayers. They will help you feel the power of life. They will teach you to pray.
The ancient Chinese poets loved ambiguity, loved paradox, and would have loved the puzzling, reality-defying entanglements that frustrate and fascinate us today. They would have laughed at them, too, while exchanging good wine and poems with each other as they watched the moon rise and be reflected in the hundred rivers flowing through the thousand mountains surrounding them and all the ten thousand things.
Emmett Wheatfall shows us how the roots of love grow deep in the soil of sacrifice. He illustrates the intensely complex relationship between idealism and realism. His poems hurt in just the right way. And it’s no small feat opening one’s own racial and cultural wounds for the world to see. It takes courage. It takes trust that a country will recognize itself, and its complicity, in those wounds. And Wheatfall trusts us to witness along with him. He proves himself ready and willing, even eager, to, as the titular poem in this collection demands, “build a new world” together.