One poem in John Terpstra’s latest collection, Brilliant Falls,isthe story of a “holy raving protester” who climbed a tree to oppose the building of a highway. The poem begins with the often-quoted first verses of Revelation 21. However, the whole collection demonstrates Terpstra’s brilliant ability to see the “new heaven and the new earth” in both the beautiful and the troubling moments of the here and now.
These are poems of wonder, bewilderment, bereavement, and amusement. Several are first-person encounters with death and difficult life changes. Terpstra’s imagery feels personal and communal, local and eternal. Seniors’ home residents move across a linoleum floor “as though they are walking on water”; closets and dresser drawers of childhood are “as private as prayer.” This is a collection for anyone seeking to celebrate the sacred edges of everyday life, written by a master poet. (Gaspereaux)
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
reviewed by Adele Gallogly
Prolific poet Mary Oliver has always displayed an unabashed love for animals and a special talent for pondering affection, beauty, and grief through the world’s smallest creatures. Her recently published poetry collection, Dog Songs, honors the canine companions that have brightened her life and work.
Oliver praises dogs for their loyalty, playfulness, and “steadfastness”; she laughs at them and mourns for them. She even imagines what they might say to her in human language. “Love and company are the adornments/that change everything,” one of her dogs ‘says’—a simple line that carries much wisdom. Ultimately, this collection is about affection beyond words—and without conditions. You do not have to be a pet owner to appreciate Dog Songs as a unique and moving portrait of how our relationship with animals can remind us, as Oliver says, “how rich it is to love the world.” (Penguin)
This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berrt
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack
Wendell Berry, who turns 80 on August 5, 2014, is an author, activist, and farmer. He has been described as “a prophet of responsibility” and lives and works on his Kentucky family farm. A self-professed “amateur poet,” his solitary Sunday walks around the farm for the last 35 years have given birth to This Day. In the introduction, Berry explains that while his “Sabbath” poems are rooted in the Genesis mandate, his rest is not always found in the church where his family attends. “I am a bad-weather churchgoer,” he confesses.
This Day marks the publication of a now-complete edition of the poems, arranged chronologically from 1979 through 2012. They are simply titled by Roman numerals followed by the year they were written. True to Berry the eco-prophet, the almost 400 poems reflect an organic connection between earth and our human community. “If tonight the world ends, we’ll have had this day” (XVII, 2012). (Counterpoint)