Wednesday, May 24, 2017

“From Ashes to Glory” by Karin Fendick

When we consider poetry in the Bible, we rather naturally think of the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Many of the psalms – songs of praise, fear, anger, acceptance, and all the other human emotions – were written by David. His son and successor wrote The Song of Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes, and most of the Book of Proverbs. In fact, when you consider all of the poetic forms used from Genesis to Malachi, you find that some 75 percent of the Bible is written in poetry.

Writer and poet Karin Fendick has called upon that poetic heritage to create From Ashes to Glory: A Psalm a Day. It is a collection of 47 poems / psalms that speaks to the worship of God, the beauty of his creation, the grace and favor of God, the brokenness of humanity, and the daily struggle of individual life. Each psalm is solidly within the tradition of poetry found in the Bible.

These are quiet psalms, designed to be read in a quiet place free of distractions. They are generally short, reflective poems. “The 11th Psalm” is a good example.

The 11th Psalm

  to choose to walk surrendered
    a laying down, giving over
day after day, moment by moment
 this is a precious, priceless, peculiar
 path, a way contrary to the world
    spirit rising as flesh descends
what earthy mind can reason it out?
this, a radical, relational, remarkable
  road, not by my choosing I tread
    a continued dying gives way
                      to life

Here Fendick is describes faith as a walk, “surrendered, a laying down,” and a laying down on a daily basis, moment by moment. It’s a walk the world cannot grasp or understand, and thus it appears foolish and futile, something beyond the limitations of human reason. It is not something psalmist chooses to do but is instead chosen to do. It is a dying, a continued dying to the ways of the world, but a dying that gives way to life.

Karin Fendick
Fendick and her husband Rick are native Canadians, and since 2014 have been serving as missionaries in Africa.

From Ashes to Glory is a cool drink of water in what we often find as the parched desert of daily life, times of stress and trial, and times of doubt.

Top photograph by Ronald Carlson via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: “Olio” by Tyehimba Jess

The first thing you notice about Olio by Tyehimba Jess, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, is that it looks like no book of poetry you have ever seen. It’s oversized, 8 x 10 inches, with a plain black-and-off-white cover, and more than half an inch thick. It looks less like a poetry collection and more like a workbook.

Tyehimba Jess
Open it, and you discover that its difference from traditional books of poetry is even more marked. It has poems, to be sure, and some drawings and photographs, which aren’t unknown in poetry collections. It also has an official cast of characters. It has interviews. Some of the poems are on pages that have to be manually folded out to be read. And for the pages containing poems designated “Jubilee,” you can read headers and footers of the names and dates of African-American churches. The dates are significant – the year the churches were burned or bombed or suffered other kinds of violence.

You begin reading Olio and you enter another world entirely. It is poetry, it is journalism, it is history, it is fiction, it is a minstrel show, it is ragtime, it is the Blues. Jess has created, or, more precisely, recreated, a world of the first generation of post-slavery African-Americans. He has told their story in a dazzling feat of imagination that fuses music, poetry, and history.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, May 22, 2017

“The Allingham Casebook” by Margery Allingham

Margery Allingham (1904-1966) was one of the stars of the Golden Age of Mystery (roughly 1920s to the 1940s). She wrote 20 novels and short story collections featuring the detective she is best known for – the mild-mannered, bespectacled Albert Campion. Campion, assisted by his servant (a former convict) Magersfontein Lugg, solved crimes all over England and the continent.

In 1947, Allingham published The Casebook of Mr. Campion, a collection of short stories that has just been republished under the title of The Allingham Casebook. While Campion appears in most of them, he doesn’t necessarily play a major role in all – in one or two, he serves simply as the listener, asking an occasional question as a police official tells a story.

With or without Campion, the stories are delight. Allingham was a mystery writer, but she was also a writer. She writes with wit, elegance, intelligence, and charm – the very characteristics possessed by Campion. The stories are of varying length – short, long and somewhere in between. But they are all thoroughly enjoyable.

In “Tall Story,” a policeman’s height becomes the key to solving a robbery and murder. “In Three is a Lucky Number,” a husband is preparing to commit his third murder – of this third wife. In “The Villa Marie Celeste,” a young couple disappear, leaving behind their clothes, purse, belongings, and two cups of tea still warm and sitting on the breakfast table. A woman decides to help a friend and restaurant owner being almost abused by the man who’s lent her money in “The Psychologist.” And a woman looks, rather smugly, as if she will succeed in the theft of a valuable fur coat in “Little Miss Know-All.”

In “One Morning They’ll Hang Him, “ a wealthy widow is murdered, and her nephew looks like the obvious killer. A crime unfolds under the disguise of a homeless tramp in “The Lieabout.” In “Face Value,” a woman looks like she was murdered by her husband, who has a solid alibi. A serial killer is murdering women with red or auburn hair in “Evidence in Camera,” and a newspaper photographer stumbles over key evidence in his camera. In “Joke Over,” the owner of a highly successful business disappears, leaving behind all of his clothes – and his teeth. In “The Lying-in-State,” a young Middle Eastern emir without an emirate dies in a London hotel, and lies in state in a vault for valuables – some of which disappear.

Margery Allingham
Albert recognizes a criminal in a Monte Carlo casino in “The Pro and the Con,” and after  recognizing several more eventually finds himself tracking down criminals in Suffolk back in England. A policeman stumbles into a crime in “Is There a Doctor in the House?” And there are several more.

The stories are entertaining, witty, and often downright fun. Allingham was having some fun with her detective and with various police officers and officials, and the fun comes directly through the writing. The Allingham Casebook is a wonderful example of her skill in the short story form. 


Top photograph: Albert Campion has been played by a number of actors in film and television adaptations over the years, including actor Peter Davison in the late 1980s.