When the holidays appear on the horizon (earlier and earlier each year….sigh) the question often arises, “What do you want for Christmas?” I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I really need, but many things I want. And what I always want is a book.
Lately it’s poetry more often than not. A new one I’ve been enjoying is “In a Strange Land-Ten Kingdom Poets” from the Poiema Series of Cascade Books. The Poiema (Greek for ‘a made thing’, or ‘workmanship’) Series is all about “providing a home for the finest poetry by people of Christian faith.”
Contributing poets include: Ryan Apple, Susan Cowger, Jen Stewart Fueston, Laura Reece Hogan, Burl Horniachek, Miho Nonaka, Debbie Sawczak, Bill Stadick, James Tughan, Mary Willis
Herewith is my review of “In a Strange Land.”
The kingdom of God has been compared throughout the Gospels as everything from a pearl of great price, to a vineyard, a man going on a journey, a mustard seed, a field of wheat and many more.
And if the Kingdom of God had poets, which I’m sure it does, then you’d find their work in the slim volume “In a Strange Land-Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets” from Poiema Poetry Series (ed. DS Martin). Editor Martin explains the occasion of this printing, “This poetry collection gathers into one volume works by ten talented poets who…each (are) well deserving of having their own full-length poetry books, but as of April, 2019 have not quite reached that milestone.”
Until these writers each have their own book (my poetic friend Susan Cowger is one of those whose work is included in Stranger; her book “A Slender Warble” releases Spring of 2020), you can find this poetic gathering and enjoy all ten. The selections are rich and varied, as each writer renders from their own perspective a fuller vision of what God’s kingdom looks like. By turns amusing, descriptive, thoughtful and downright take-your-breath-away, we are handed a lens to view a particular version of faith experience as they see it.
Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 12:1& 2 comes to mind, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”
This offering of each writer’s ‘walking around life’ includes poems about wildfires, the gift of children, taking communion, the depth of pregnancy loss, the Polar Vortex, learning the Lord’s prayer, a noisy crow’s message in the LA suburbs and much more.
(And for my readers who often tell me they don’t “get” poetry, I hope you’ll consider giving it a go.)
Here is some of what these ten kingdom writers see when they are walking around. And, since it is nearly impossible to choose a favorite, as I have so many poems circled and highlighted, I will give you two.
Living in a Secular Country -Burl Horniachek
The only physical theories we accept are the beautiful ones. -Albert Einstein
We live in a darkened world, an age when God’s
Discernible presence, like the slow but powerful bear,
Seems safely deposed to its arctic den.
Modern thought breeds materialism,
That dull song played on winter’s harp,
But clues to a coming spring abide:
None can answer how the mind’s small flower
Greens itself out from matter’s frozen turf,
Nor how beauty’s arrow flies, almost
Without fail, straight to the eye of truth.
I know that here, in this frozen land,
Eternal June shall play again its lusty theme.
God as Water –Susan Cowger*
Sometimes God is a pool
Where the cheeky swimmer dares to lie
On the surface buoyant
An no one thinks a thing of it
When God rivers a careful wader deeper
No footings no holds
But the kick-stream choke of an innocent falling in
Lungs conceding to rip-tide broken teeth
And ragged questions bleed from the scrapes
Wounds ground into sand swell oh the swells
When God is ocean
Beauty and power that breaks
Every perfect shell
And shores its way into willful lungs until you know
God is flood
Infinite unbound weight over my head
And the unanswerable question
*Spacing is intentional. Line breaks are everything in poetry.
*Note about A Slender Warble-“Within the bewildering paradox of suffering and beauty, we often miss the Invisible One. Never quite what you’d imagine, the nudge of his Presence can be mind-bending. More often, the Almighty gives no more than a slender warble. This collection is about finding the presence of God in spite of and because of the trappings that make us most human.”
Happy Reading! In a Strange Land is available Here
or wherever books are sold.