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does not accomplish this. Simply stating that these works ‘‘bear witness’’ is inadequate . Ultimately, these projections are unnecessary, as nothing is demonstrably added to Pederson’s excellent account of postwar critiques of atonement by his appeal to trauma theory. And at the risk of being too beholden to the vicissitudes of scholarly fashion, it is fair to say that trauma and witness testimony theory are rather passé and this makes the text appear critically anachronistic. This could potentially detract from a work that otherwise possesses considerable merit. Andrew Ball Lindenwood University Devotions: Poems. By Timothy Murphy. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University Press, 2017. Pp. 160. ISBN 978-0-911042-91-7. $ 24.95. In his preface to Timothy Murphy’s Devotions, Dana Gioia reminds readers how large a role devotional verse has played in the history of English poetry. It’s a worthwhile reminder because this sort of poetry remains rare now. Certainly there is religious poetry in abundance; magazines arise and thrive on it, like Image, Christianity and Literature, and the various theological reviews. But religious poetry done Murphy’s way is something out of the ordinary. It’s unusual first of all because it is actually verse. It metes and rhymes. Its rhymes are true, not slant, and its meters are constant, usually a bucking accentual rhythm rather than a liquid iambic flow. And it’s unusual because it is unabashedly devotional. Many of the pieces here are frankly prayer, or discussions of prayer. Some are metrical translations of the psalms, a venerable form used by the most famous poets who wrote in English. Some are meditations on the varied pains and joys of his North Dakota life. The book is unusual also in that its devotions are to worldly things, as well as to God, since the poems make clear that Murphy is also devoted to poetry, to people, and to the natural world. Murphy’s life is an interesting one, in its present situation and in its troubled and lively past. As Murphy fans know, his poetry is so frankly autobiographical that it conveys all the pleasures and the discomforts of intimate knowledge of another person. Most remarkably, it combines staunch Catholic orthodoxy on some points with unashamed acknowledgment that Murphy is gay, and that for decades he shared life and poetry with the late Alan Sullivan. (Readers curious about Sullivan’s life and work can still consult his blog, Fresh Bilge.) As in all the Murphy books, one of the pleasures is getting the life story: Interment One boy with a guitar and dreadful novel, another, poems crammed inside his head— 732 Christianity & Literature 66(4) one led the other to his basement hovel and slung the slender stranger into bed. They would find seven hundred trees to tend and eighteen types of apples to be grafted, dogs to be fed and watered, and God send the manuscripts of poems to be crafted. So it went on for decades, so we grow, but now one digs beside two teenage trees, acorns unearthed, transplanted years ago, slim oaks, leaves yellowed by last night’s freeze, I delve a deep hole in the orchard soil, singing my lover’s favorite Latin song, Tantum Ergo. The digging is no toil. My friend? Let me pretend he did no wrong. The poems about Sullivan’s illness interwoven with the two men’s shared conversion , about Sullivan’s death, and about the lonely aftermath are sober, facing the events head on. At times the combination of eros and agape makes for an image that stops the reader cold: Live on, mon vieux, in words you sometimes wrote When Jesus seized his servant by the throat. Murphy is equally forthright about his decades-long struggle with alcohol, as here, in one of his meditations on the deadly sins— Aquinas clad in flab— punishment for a sin which I am innocent of. Distance runner thin, I was no muscled slab— no Greek, with olive skin— when mastered by the love where all my dreams begin. ‘‘Such gluttony!’’ I cry. But drink? I am unmanned. Pour me a shot of rye and still my trembling hand. Book Reviews 733 —or here, about...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 732-736
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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