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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Poetry Book Review: Litany of Flights


In the new book of poems Litany of Flights by Laura Reece Hogan, which Paraclete Press kindly sent me to review, biblical references take flight in the lyrical voices of Saint Theresa, Saint John of the Cross, and others. Occasionally, though, the luscious lines leave me behind, uncertain of the poet’s intent. But since this slender volume won first place in the initial Paraclete Poetry Prize competition, I suggest your first reading of Litany of Flights remains open to flight, untethered from “understanding” and ready to experience the imagery, musicality, and emotions of the poems. (Trust me! It's worth it.)


Be prepared, too, to adore. In the poem “On Adoring You,” for instance, place yourself into this scene where:


In dark cords of night you weave for me

a cocoon of yourself. Splinters for silk,

thorns your thread, a love poured, an emptied

truth. I drink, in stripped unknowing. I long

to emerge winged, a bloom from black earth,

for love is stronger than death.”


That particular poem came from the first section, “Emerge Winged,” as does the “Preaching of the Birds.”


Yesterday on the feast of St. Francis, I thought – if he were here,

preaching to the birds, wrapped in his tunic of everyday, his holy knees


would sink to my dying grass, one hand pressed to the rough breast

of Sister earth, one lifted skyward in benediction of all flight.


In section II. “Loft the Bones,” we find a “Movable Feast” with concluding lines that help to inform us more fully about the poems before and after:


… I want to give you all the bowls of fragrant

prayers, all the fingers clasped in thanksgiving, all

the vowels of praise    ascending, all the joy in the


halls of light, and also in the halls of darkness, among

the little sparrows gazing so faithfully at your cloak of cloud.

I want to write my life     on a sheet of linen paper


spill all the notes of my love, from first dawn to dawnless day,

the pounding lament, the soaring victory, the hushed longing

and give it to you.


But you have already given it all to me.”


Also in section II. we have “One Handful with Tranquility” and these lines with which most of us can identify:


This is mercy, this forgetting of the winter, the drought, the fire, and

the hunger’ the shuddering deep of the sigh, a time to release, a time


to love, come what may. This is mercy, this forgetting to remember,

the remembering to forget all except now, this present, this presence.


Section III. further informs us as we “Scale This Light,” giving by the poem “Morning Star”:


An exhale, then movement,

the water slides beneath. We

stay up all night looking for the stars,

less cosmic compass than pinpricks

in the heart, prophets linking arms

with apostles, a body.


In “Fusion,” we find the ultimate Light scaled in this uplifting lines:


In Dali’s cosmic dream, Christ

blazes as the nucleus of the universe,

a moment which bears all,


scintillating atoms caught under

the brush, a death reversed by creator.

Gaze on him, resplendent, join


these your atoms to his, and ignite.”



Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer






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