Archives For Life


A Review of

Skating with Heather Grace: Poems.
Thomas Lynch.
Hardback: Knopf, 1987.
Paperback Reprint edition: Carnegie Mellon UP, 2011.
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Reviewed by Bob Zender.

He may disagree vehemently, he may take this a professional affront, but Thomas Lynch writes poetry that can be enjoyed by people who typically run screaming from the stuff. His work is grounded in real life, with its troughs of sadness and piques of beauty and joy. To Lynch, death, sex, depression, struggle, sudden loss and slow decline are the prime materials in the work of human-being; worthy of the honor and thanksgiving he gives in Skating with Heather Grace.

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“A Visual, Playful and Engaging

A review of
Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems.
By Maureen Doallas.

Reviewed by Chris Enstad.

Nerudas Memoirs - Maureen DoallasNeruda’s Memoirs: Poems.
Maureen Doallas.
Paperback: TS Poetry Press, 2011.
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]

You can also read two poems from this collection elsewhere on our site:
What is Enough” and “Spring Thaw

Maureen Doallas is, according to her biography, “a features writer, editor, poet and owner of an art-licensing business called Transformational Threads.”  She wrote these poems as a way out of the grief of the loss of her brother to cancer.  To one who might find such grief overpowering, a pain that would lead us in exactly the opposite direction of picking up this book and reading the poetry and prose contained therein, I would ask you to pause for just a moment and reflect upon what I want to tell you about this marvelous little tome:  it is a thing of beauty.

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“The Way It Isn’t”

A Review of

What Love Comes To:
New and Selected Poems

By Ruth Stone

Reviewed by Kendra Langdon Juskus.

What Love  Comes to: Poems - Ruth StoneWhat Love Comes To:
New and Selected Poems

Ruth Stone.
Paperback:  Copper Canyon Press, 2008

New Edition, Dec. 2010.
Buy Now [ Amazon ]

It is dangerous to be a young woman reading an old woman’s poetry. Her words prematurely thrust you into the inevitabilities of life: the tender scars of loss, the wounds of war that open again and again, the disorientation of old age. This foreknowledge can be a liability in your hands, or it can be a gift. Either way, it is what you get reading the poetry of Ruth Stone.

Stone is nearly 96 years old but does not rejoice in her longevity. In fact, it seems a part of her would have rather exited life years ago than persist without the husband she lost in 1959 and whose ghost haunts every poem she has written since. And she has written a lot of poems since.

Living most of those years in some degree of poverty and obscurity hasn’t persuaded Stone to surrender any commitment to her craft or to compromise her vulnerable, brutal, and often sparkling voice for greater fame. The result of her tenacity is an oeuvre of 13 books of poetry; a National Book Award and a Wallace Stevens Award for her 2002 collection, In the Next Galaxy; a National Book Critics Circle Award and two Guggenheim Fellowships; and this latest collection, What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems, which was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

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“’Tis all one to lye.”

Review of
Two Recent Books
Death and Burial.

Reviewed by David Anderson.

Keith Eggener.

Hardback: Norton, 2010.
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Urne-Buriall, Or,
A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchrall
Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk
Sir Thomas Browne

New Directions, 2010.
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I have had a surprisingly close, some might say scary, relationship with cemeteries throughout my life. When I was a boy we lived for a year in a house that had a small pet cemetery under an arbor in the spacious backyard. I liked to go back there and look at the little stone markers and wonder who had played with and loved these animals. The Southern Baptist college I attended had an old cemetery on top of the hill the college was built on, directly opposite the men’s dorms. I spent many an hour sitting there studying by a small group of graves marked Anderson, keeping my possible relatives company. For a couple of years in my Chicago years I lived right across the street from the city’s historic Graceland Cemetery, established in 1860. The brick wall of the cemetery went along the other side of the street and I could see over it. It was like living opposite a park. Friends asked if it didn’t spook me out, but I said if any spooks didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t bother them.

The Norton/Library of Congress collection of cemetery photographs taken from the Library’s extensive holdings is a stunning visual feast of images of America’s cemeteries, from churchyard cemeteries in New England to above-ground burials in New Orleans to rusting iron crosses dotting the prairies where towns used to flourish to cemeteries with whale bone fences in Alaska. The book opens with a short essay by Keith Eggener that sets the bar for excellence in this kind of writing: Eggener doesn’t lapse into academese, nor does he go into the details of the photography and photographers. He sticks to laying the groundwork for the reader to understand the many pictures that follow.

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“A Radical Revision of Church Teaching
on Hell and Eternity

A review of
Razing Hell:
Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught
About God’s Wrath and Judgment
By Sharon Baker.

Reviewed by Karen Altergott.

Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught
About God’s Wrath and Judgment
Sharon Baker.

Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.

Buy now: [ ]

Razing Hell - Sharon BakerThroughout most of this book, I was saying, “yes, but…” to the provocative ideas presented.  Written in a style that is at once informal, because it relies on interjected questions from real and altered conversations, and substantial, because it uses academic theological work and frequent Old and New Testament passages, Razing Hell is a highly readable book.  A slowly and carefully developed argument against a wrathful God who just can’t wait to throw unrepentant sinners into the fires of hell, this book arrives at a most persuasive conclusion that no faithful Christian can deny.  God is, indeed, a God of infinite love and power.  And all that power is devoted to reestablishing a relationship with each human being.

This is an important book.  It goes deeper into the quest to understand Christianity for our time, and for all time.  If you appreciated A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, if you enjoy the open-minded yet thoroughly faith-centered books by N.T. Wright, I think you will appreciate this treatment of hell.  Other contemporary works are a bit too disconnected from scripture or offer academic arguments that are a bit challenging to follow.  Razing Hell starts with truly significant wrestling with theological ideas, like how can good but non-professing people like Lisa’s grandmother go to a place of never-ending suffering – hell? What possible reason is there to give non-believers that will lead them to accept Christ and live in the Way offered in Christ if there is no hell (Eric’s question)?  And, how can it be justice for God to send weak and helpless human beings to eternal torture in return for merely temporal sins of omission or commission (Brooke’s question)?  After raising questions that real believers and many non-believers struggle with, Sharon Baker examines scripture, church and cultural history, a deep understanding of the Hebrew text, and a reconciling treatment of Jesus that is in line with her new interpretation of Hell in the Old and New Testaments.

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“Santa Maria degli Angeli”
Gisue Carducci

[ Tribute to St. Francis,
Found in St. Francis (Christian Encounter Series)
By Robert West ]

How spacious, brother Francis, and how high
Is this fair dome of il Vignola spread
Above the spot where thou in agony
Layed’st naked with crossed arms, the earth thy bed!
Tis hot July: and o’er the plain, long wed
To labour, floats the love-song.  Would that I
Caught in the Umbrian song thy accent sped,
Thy face reflected in the Umbrian sky!
And where the mountain-village stands outlined
‘Gainst heav’n, a mild, lone radiance o’er thee poured,
As from thy Paradise that openeth,
Would I could see thee — arms outstretched and mind
Intent on God — singing: “Praised be the Lord
For the death of the body, our dear sister Death.”


“Facing Death Head On

A Review of
Art of Dying:
Living Fully into the Life to Come

By Rob Moll

Reviewed by Jasmine Wilson.

Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come
By Rob Moll
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

THE ART OF DYING - Rob MollI once had a philosophy professor who started her Aquinas class on the virtues and vices by having her students write their own eulogy. Her purpose in this exercise is both to introduce students to thinking critically about life, but also to analyze where they are in terms of virtue development. What would people say about me if I were to die now? The second part of the exercise is to write the eulogy that you wish was delivered. What sort of person do I want to be when my life is complete that I perhaps am not right now?

Rob Moll’s book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, has a similar mission. Moll argues that it is only by facing death head on that we can authentically live. His book is a well-balanced mix of historical information about how Christians have practiced death, personal story-telling from his experiences with the dying from his job in hospice and the stories others have shared with him, partly a how-to manual, and partly a foundation for contemplative conversation with friends, complete with a useful discussion guide. All these elements mix incredibly well together to encourage the reader, no matter what age, to think about the best way to die in a Christian manner, and to have conversations with others about it.

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“The Signs of Life ”
Liberty Hyde Bailey

[ from Wind and Weather: Poems Read the Book’s Intro ]
Kindle Ebook version is only $2.99 for the rest of Aug 2012!!!

Ha, ye dead thing upon the ground
How few of ye I’ve ever found
And I have tramped it far and wide
By wood and wash and ripple-side!

And often have I wondered where
The bodies of the dead misfare, —
Of all the multitudes of those
The variegated life compose
Of field and sea and air and earth
Throughout the planet’s spacious girth.

Some pass life’s full allotted span;
On some there is the ’scapeless ban
That takes them early to the pit—
Where be the graves of the unfit?

But soon or late the day is sped
And strong and weak alike are dead,
They meet the summons where they are
And ev’ry death is singular;
And yet these millions pass unseen
And leave scant trace to intervene.

The gaps fill in; the earth is rife
With energy that mastereth;—
The upward signs of birth and life
Are greater than the signs of death.