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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Almost Entirely: a book review

In this age of cynicism and, often, fury, Jennifer Wallace lifts us from doubt and despair into spiritual insight and buoyancy in her new book of poems Almost Entirely published by Paraclete Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

Take, for example, the poem “When The Wing Gives Way,” in which the poet, like most of us, is getting too accustomed to death:

“I want to be more ready than I am today.
Ready to let what is left lift me, draw me into meanings
that will shatter me more than this.”

And consider her response to doubt in the poem by that name, which opens with these lines:

“I look at it this way: either you exist or you don’t. I don’t think –
in your case – there’s an in-between a ‘sort of’ God….”

And ends with the light touch of humor found in some of the poems:

“the same one who invented oxygen invented doubt and I guess
that sort of variety keeps things moving, which you are a fan of.
No doubt about that.”

In “Day of Faith,” the poet reminds us:

“Most of us believe in something:
the garden, a star, the scrape
of the stone rolling back….

Then asks:

“What is death but the truth of incompleteness?
An unpicked pear mottles in the grass.
The well fills and unfills.
One early sparrow can’t help but sing.”

As I read through the book, I marked it up – underlining exquisite phrases and putting an asterisk beside favorite poems such as “Atonement,” which begins with the “I” of the poem, starting a small fire and placing:

“On top of the stones, a small pile of messages
written on rice paper and folded into thumb-sized
packets, each with its own label: Fear, Guilt, Anger.”

In this act of confession:

“Righteousness was the first to go, its message
curled and crumpled, the dark ink dissolved to smoke
then drifted a little in the biting breeze.

My disappearing sins warmed me first
before reuniting with everything.”

And that’s what this book does well: reunites us - with God, each other, and our amusing selves.

Mary Sayler, ©2018, reviewer and poet-author

Almost Entirely, paperback

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