Van Braeden’s debut poetry collection takes readers to the heights of physical ecstasy and the quieter lows of solitude using a vocabulary of theosophy.
The book’s title signals its reach toward grand rapture—a state of “flow,” akin to swimming in a perfectly paced current. “Eternity” was a favorite word of Emily Dickinson’s, and here it doesn’t describe permanence as much as it does New Age bliss. In several short, numbered sections, about half of the collection explores a desire for a lover and an intoxicating validation of the self. The intensity is all-absorbing: “we find ourselves / embraced once more / in this cosmic dance, / as we dream ourselves / into the truth / of Love.” Some lines read like lines from a self-help book jacket: love thyself, value thyself, and so on. But readers may give the poet credit for her descriptions of soul-merging: “What other reality do we have, love / save that which our momentary loving / dances into eternal being?” In the fifth section of the book, the subject matter switches abruptly to portraits of solitude, in which the speaker digs deep into reserves of philosophical strength. These poems are less successful, less sustained, and more ordinary. Once the author’s magical “flow” is gone, along with all of its enlivening aspects, the result is just another breakup poem. The last section showcases the author’s early writing, which is always a gamble in poetry collections, as such verse can often seem too precious. There are moments of banality among the lines here, but they also lay bare a raw, emotional suffering; however, metaphor shrouds the real-life sources or events. These early poems’ focus on immediate family members alludes to deep, troubling truths, and although they’re uneven, they do reveal the poet’s early attraction to the explosive power of words.
Powerful poems of rapture, but readers may desire a tighter, more cohesive book.