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Review Article Poetry, the Power of the Pen, and the Redemption of Time Angela Alaimo O’Donnell Fordham University, USA Mid Evil. Maryann Corbett. Evansville, IN: University of Evansville Press, 2014. Pp. 74. Gold. Barbara Crooker. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013. Pp. 70. Departures. Philip C. Kolin. Mobile, AL: Negative Capability Press, 2014. Pp, 94. Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower: But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. —Robert Frost Sen he has all my brether tane, He will naught let me live alane; Of force I man his next prey be:— Timor Mortis conturbat me. Since for the Death remeid is none, Best is that we for Death dispone, After our death that live may we:— Timor Mortis conturbat me. —William Dunbar Poets Frost and Dunbar, writing 400 years apart, speak truths that we, their readers and descendants, know all too well. Time flies, beauty fades, all things must pass, death awaits each of us. None of this is news. Christianity & Literature 2016, Vol. 65(2) 244–256 ! The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/ journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0148333115616903 cal.sagepub.com Corresponding author: Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Duane Library, Room 264, Fordham University, New York, 10458, USA. Email: aodonnell@fordham.edu Why, then, do these lines strike us to the quick in a way that my prosaic formulations of their themes do not? What is it about poetry that packs the gut punch appropriate to this terrifying subject, provokes the ‘‘oomph’’ that involuntarily escapes us when we hear the lines recited, and haunts our memories like grim incantations we couldn’t get rid of if we tried? Surely part of their power comes from rhyme and meter, each driving the poem forward as we, doomed thralls of enchantment, irresistibly follow. And surely the precision of the language, the concreteness of the scenarios, and the arc of the narrative that drives each poem all conspire to enmesh the reader and listener. But the primary reason we sit up and take notice is because we find pleasure in the poetry. Poetry brings us to ourselves, awakens us to the present moment, and provokes us into inhabiting our human condition in a deep and visceral way. Despite their dark themes and their dread warnings, ‘‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’’ and ‘‘Lament for the Makers’’ make us strangely glad to be human and alive. Three recent books of poems follow in the footsteps of these poetic masters, creating collections that engage these human truths in diverse ways, each particular to the vision and voice of the poet. Maryann Corbett’s Mid Evil offers carefully crafted poems, many of which explore the relationship between poets of the past and her own role in the here and now as one of those Makers Dunbar laments. Barbara Crooker’s Gold acknowledges her debt to Frost in her title and her epigraph (‘‘Nothing gold can stay’’), announcing her collection as both a celebration of the daily joys of life (including the people she most loves) and an elegy for their inevitable loss. Philip Kolin’s Departures initiates the reader into a world of both private and communal memory as he explores the life of New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta – a place he has lived for four decades – offering poems that probe the rich and sometimes hidden history of the storied place he calls home. Each of these collections engages the past as if it were still present, and the present even as it is rapidly passing away, enabling the reader to witness the merciless crush of time without being subject to it. Corbett, Crooker, and Kolin stop the endless succession of seconds long enough for us to enter their respective imaginative worlds, hear their inimitable songs, and emerge with them still singing in our ears. The means of this not-so-minor miracle is, of course, the pen—the ancient and enduring technology of writing—that enables the poet to communicate her ideas to readers and to leave behind some...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 244-256
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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