Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review: Anthony S. Abbott New Selected Poems 1989-2009

I haven't read much poetry lately, well, I guess "real poetry." The closest I've come to poetry is "Jack and Jill went up the hill......" or my favorite, "Bah, bah black sheep have you any wool...." hey, I have two children under 6 yrs, what do you expect? Most of my reading has either been in the areas of Scripture, Theology, Memoir/Biography, mostly academic work or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet Too, Cinderella, and of course Snow White. But not too much least until now.

While browsing in the local Barnes and Noble bookstore I came across this slender unassuming book with a stark cover. The name was familiar, a friend of mine suggested that I read Abbott's poetry and I have seen his name in the local paper a few times, actually more than a few times. So I decided to purchase this book. Well, I am glad I did.

You see, good poetry is universal, poets reveal human nature at its best. I can't remember where I heard this but recently I heard that poets, all artists (musicians, painters, photographers, potters, etc..) are the foundation of a culture, they make us all more human(e). I agree.

Abbott's poetry is moving to say the least. He is what I call an incarnational poet, his poetry is comprised of the stuff of everyday life, a girl in a yellow raincoat waiting for a bus or a car to pick her up, the fresh blooms of spring flowers, reflections on Holy Friday, and one of my favorite "Growing Up" which I actually read to my daughters last night and they loved it!

Because of my graduate training I tend to read fast, my eye surveying the page like a lightning fast laser skimming over to find the "essentials" or "the facts" or "the point of this story or article." Poetry makes the reader slow down, way down. Several times I caught myself stopping, having to re-read the previous sentence or even read it again. This is good, to slow down, take everything in, savor the words on the page. Abbott is a master of language. Yet he is not one of those poets who sound so erudite that you need a dictionary to understand every other word. No, Abbott has one eye on humanity and the other on God, he is a mystic with two feet on the ground I guess.

I liked this volume so much that I went online and purchased his other collections too, The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat and The Search For Wonder in the Cradle of the World. I will savor these collections in the weeks and months to come. I know that I will draw from Tony's poetry for future preaching and teaching, using examples from a life well lived.

Do yourself a favor, buy this book and drink deep from the well of Tony's writing you won't be disappointed.

Blood Red of Late October (p. 8)

Blood red of late October in the South
and from the cemetery to the college campus
on the hill, the leaves bathe my eyes. I turn each corner into dazzling suprise.

In my mind's eye, she walks toward me.
I show her my favorite tree. I pluck three
leaves for her and watch as she carries them away.
This is new found grace,

and in the space where sadness once lay
the small white flower of hope grows.
In the South, October lingers, the gold
sun glances off the trees. November will

come with its cold rain soon enough,
I know. I turn the dazzle inward
and down. It courses through the veins
and lofts me toward the breathless light.