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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Unpaused Poems: Real, Raw, Relevant


When Cathy Lawton, Editor-Publisher of Cladach Publishing, asked me to review Unpaused Poems by Alice Scott-Ferguson, I gladly agreed, especially since Cladach had published my book PRAISE!


My first impression of this new poetry book was its attractive cover art by Elaine Pedersen, who also illustrated the book’s interior. Then I noticed three clues to the poems themselves in the subtitle: “Real, Raw, Relevant.” Not only do those words reflect the contents of the book, but they hint at the word plays to come.


At first, though, the poet let us know in the Introduction that she wrote the poems when many of us faced: “An ongoing pandemic threatening to unmoor society as we have known it, and an all time low in race relations in the United States driving deeper divides among us. We have navigated a national election through a hostile highway of acrimony, angst, and anger.”


During this unique time in history, the poet addresses seven themes: “I. Hurting and Hoping,” “II. Ruminations and Reflections,” “III. Sensing Surroundings,” “IV. Takes on Theology,” “V. Voices of Women,” “VI. The Darker Side,” and “VII. The Lighter Side.”


In the first section of both hurt and hope, we find “The Open Grave” with these lines:


We are bereft


“The casket, the dirt waiting to receive the remains

to cover him in the dark dirt of his island home

Then the larks – a pair of them soaring and swooping –

trill over the open grave

We lift our heads to see the song

of a pair of birds, a pair of lovers reunited!”


The second section demonstrates the poet’s affection for word plays:


Wearing Old


I wear my old with


below the fold, the news is


the light of years distilled from


that came and went


in the nature of things….”


However, my favorite section, “IV. Takes on Theology,” tones down the sound echoes and reveals insight into God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For instance, “Plenty For All” reveals awareness of  Jesus Christ in these lines:


They knew him by the breaking of the bread

        he who took less and made it more….”


In that same section, the last verse of “Where Is God?” provides this poignant picture:


In the endless need

        he is everywhere

I last saw him

        in the form of a brave bilingual man

        picking up dead bodies

        left behind in the desert

        where they dropped in their weakness

        on the road to freedom


Also in Section IV. of Unpaused Poems we have this verse from the poem, “The Lord’s Prayer.”


Do we not partake daily of the living bread of life

feasting by faith on the Body of him

broken for our sake

sated and wanting nothing we already have

We have surely been fully and forever forgiven

Every accusation against us was driven

into those healing hands


Other poems express faith, injustice, or social issues, while “Sequins Before Six” and “Observed at the Car Dealer,” deal with aging. In general, most readers will identify with the poems, but toward the end of the book, “Changes” happened to address my particular day’s frustration:


My heart quakes, all exultant expectations eclipsed

        by the prospect of creating a new password

Do you have any idea how many of those I have already?

        No. I don’t even know


I don’t know my exact number either, but at present, I have 12 columns of passwords, typed and scribbled in pencil, beside my desk. And this very day, I failed to log-in to my online bank account because a change of ownership necessitated yet another password change. Such is life as we now know it, and such are these poems.



©2021, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, reviewer






  1. I am most grateful for such an in depth review of my work! Many thanks, Mary!

  2. Good to know! God bless you and your writing life in Christ.