My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

26 April 2005

Book Review - A Slender Grace

A Slender Grace - Poems
Rod Jellema

I don't know if I'm trying to make up for not paying attention in high school lit or if I've just plain guilted myself into becoming more widely read, but I'm now reading poetry out of conviction, hoping books like this will turn that into reading out of love. Having said that, I really liked this book. A lot.

Rod Jellema is a professor emeritus of English at the Univeristy of Maryland. He is a professing Christian, working that cleverly and beautifully and subtly into his poems - The Christian faith is the lump of yeast stirred into the dough that makes the whole loaf, the book of poems, what it is. I don't want to dish out dollops of raw yeast, and you shouldn't want to receive them. Let's let the yeast permeate the loaf.

It's a 109 page book, full of wonderful, mostly short poems. His topics range from Nicarauga to pinneaples, from Blind Willie Johnson (look him up!) to green beans, from incarnational theology to bicycle parts.
A great balance is found between the temporal and eternal, the light and dark. Some of his sly humor is especially worth the price of the book - especially his poem on the national poets' strike (Maybe six thousand poets closed shop, and nobody noticed).

Most helpful to me, though, was Jellema's short introduction, speaking of poetry and poets. He defines poetry as focused second glances and poets as those who take second glances at things everyone looks at. When I'm writing to catch that second look, clarifying gradually what it becomes as I try to make it, the backdrop against which I see the world around us is Eden, the lost Eden... These second glances lead Jellema to challenge some long-accepted symbols, seeing hope in darkness (vs., say, the light of Hiroshima). Why do poetry? Why read poetry? Humans try to create because they're human, because they are made in the image of their Creator...we're living in the eighth day of creation. The world is still being created, but now it's our job.

Yeah, I liked this book. I'm going to read it again very soon. It's a good book to keep on the nightstand, chewing on one or two poems every night.

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