Social History: Poems (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.


Making Meaning from the Past
Social History: Poems by Bobby C. Rogers

“We were there to visit the ruins, the shabby places my father had lived during the Depression,” writes Bobby C. Rogers in the title poem of his collection, Social History. The speaker is six at the time of the visit. Only later in life does it seem odd: his father, a sharecropper’s son, fondly talking with the landlord of the farm where his family spent years “tenanting and deeply in debt.” Did his father aim “to gild the past with a shine like the sweet glaze on a fruit pie fresh from the fryer grease”?

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to my Christian brothers & sisters saying “get over it and give Trump a chance.”

IMG_1097 (1)First of all—hi. Warmly. Because that’s how you’ve always greeted me—with love. Remember me? I’m Jen. You were a big brother or sister to me about a decade ago when I warily stepped into church—intrigued by Christ, frightened of Christians—and you shocked me with how kind you were and how closely you listened.

That one night—when we stood next to each other in church singing he loves us, oh how he loves us, he loves us all, and it felt like the very air was swimming with that love—I still experience a kind of residual wonder when I think of that.

Those weeks on end when we got together in our friend’s living room, lounging around eating too many cookies and Kahlua brownies and delving into the book of James—you were so honest about your own faults. You modeled humility for me.

Together we organized Thanksgiving dinner for that shelter, and you made five pounds of mashed potatoes. When I was pregnant, you put your hand on my belly and prayed for me. When I preached my first sermon, your hugs were fierce and your joy was real.

It’s been hard for me to read some of the things you’ve been posting on Facebook as we approached Inauguration Day.

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A Horse with Holes in It (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate. Here’s the latest.

horse_browndervillePoetry of Visions
A Horse with Holes in It
by Greg Alan Brownderville

Biblical visions, for all their bewildering oddity—Ezekiel’s wheels, Isaiah’s live coal to the lips—can carry a realer-than-real-life quality. A cover tears away; everything sharpens. If you’re drawn to that cocktail of wonder and fear, read Greg Alan Brownderville’s newest poetry collection A Horse with Holes in It, in which every poem summons a jolted-to-attention quality. Find here a man building an altar of aquariums for a “spirit wife” named Easy Lee; the sacrifice of 5,000 red-wing blackbirds; a “black-and-gold sweater” that “gave me the power of bumble flight;” an experimental art project involving body shots off a mannequin Eurydice. Pieces of Brownderville’s childhood world—Arkansas earth, Pentecostal church—burn like flecks of red pepper through these poems, but so too do allusions to Georges Braque, Parthenon statues, and the goddess Isis. The poet wanders this tense psychic ground between rural South and “Midtown Lounge, the poets’ pub.”

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Mad Maudlin

I’ve started brewing poems lately, after a long time of not.

the circus of our yard on the cusp of fall

the circus of our yard on the cusp of fall

A bit about this one: For many years, I’ve been drawn to a character named Mad Maudlin, who appears in 17th and 18th century Bedlamite ballads. She was the female counterpart to a “Mad Tom o’Bedlam” character, the catch-all term for asylum inmates released to the London streets and left to beg alms.

Most Bedlamite lyrics are from Mad Tom’s point of view—but years ago, I learned to sing one from Mad Maudlin’s, in which she’s been parted from Tom o’Bedlam and goes on a ravenous, lunatic quest to find him.

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I’ll Follow You Into the Dark (Song Series #16)

Jennings Music Building, Bennington College

Jennings Music Building, Bennington College

Possibly this song was written for people like my husband and me. If there’s an afterlife, I don’t know what it’s going to do with us. Rob: Even-keeled, generous, good-hearted agnostic. Me: Moody, half-the-time decent, often-skeptical, pretty left-of-center Christian. I’ve dragged him to Costa Rica and Greece and road-tripping and tent camping all around the country. He’s shown me the quiet pleasures of staying put. Neither of us is going anywhere important without the other.

When we come to the door of the great beyond, if such there be, I think we may sit busking forever just outside the fence, just playing this song, until they start throwing the rotten fruit of Eden at us.

I’ll Follow You Into the Dark

Guitar: Rob Hinst

Vocal: Jen Hinst-White

Written by Ben Gibbard

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