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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology

Paraclete Press kindly sent me a complimentary copy of The Paraclete Poetry Anthology to review, and what a treasure it is! As the Foreword by former editor-publisher Jon M. Sweeney reminds us:

“Poems help us to quell doubts as well as raise questions. Poems help us explore our emotions and spark our imaginations. And they slow us down. To read a poem well is to go slowly, and every good poems resists what’s easy.”

An “easy” poem often tells us what a poet wants to say, instead of showing us. Often, too, the poet gets locked into a rhyme pattern that makes the easy poem a medley of sounds at the expense of sense, insight, or visual accompaniment.

By contrast, Mark S. Burrows, the editor of the anthology, discusses “A Sense of Presence” in his Introduction to “Poetry and the Education of the Soul.” He calls on poems to “animate our soul, that part of the self beyond the reach of worldly ambition and outward achievement. They hold before us the dimension of spiritual experience…..” and “initiate us into mystery.”

As the Introduction goes on to say: Poems “offer us language lifted into song, even if we must often learn to listen patiently for this music in the startlements of metaphor and unexpected syntax. In such ways poems turn aside from the didactic and speak primarily through innuendo and allurement, preferring indirection to more frontal modes of speech and leading us through and beyond the facts along often meandering paths of the imagination.”

Poetry helps us to notice, ponder, and pay attention. “For what matters is not that we grasp the poem, but it grasps us.”

If you’re a poet, the Introduction alone provides remarkable tutelage in writing. Then both poetry writers and readers can go on to enjoy the collection of poems that poet, professor, and editor Burrows chose according to his highly informed standards.

Take, for example, the first lines of the first poem in the book:

“On the threshold of the poem shake off the dust
the powder of hate from your soul
set aside passion
so as not to defile words.”

In the poem “Heavenly City,” Scott Cairns writes:

“…The world remains a puzzle,

no matter how many weeks one stands
apart from it, no matter how one tries

to see its troubled surfaces, or hopes
to dip beneath them for a glimpse of what it is

that makes this all appear to tremble so.”

In “Morning Lament” by the late Phyllis Tickle, to whom this anthology is dedicated, we catch another glimpse of poetry:

“In their awakened morning life,
They limply lie – my lilting lines –
Too labored now to fly,
And loosely hold in languid grasp
The half-remembered chants
Of lyrics lost in melody.”

Fr. John-Julian takes us on an insightful journey in “Long Wanderings” where:

“One chooses
and the other roads are gone,
into foothills which
will always be horizon now
and never home –“

Thankfully editor-poet Mark S. Burrows translated a few poems by the Iranian poet SAID with lines such as these:

“look o lord
I don’t sing your praises
but I seek you
with my limbs
which I’ve tamed just for you
for I want to keep watch over your word
so that love may be found anew
and we win back our wildness.”

Toward the end of this highly recommended anthology, Editor Burrows also translates poems by Rilke, but in between his skilled translations you’ll find contemporary poets whose work you won’t want to miss.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer reviewer, ©2016

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, paperback

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