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99 Meditations for a Modern-Day Habakkuk

A challenging, inspiring and funny work for anyone who loves the poetic form.

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A series of brief, meditative poems revolving around illness, injustice and God.

“I am inexplicably drawn to the minor prophets of the Old Testament,” Bodine explains in the preface of her new collection of “meditations.” She says that they came out of her study of the biblical book of Habakkuk and her own encounters with illness and injustice. But this work is far from being a daily devotional or memoir. “[A]ny meditation inspired by Habakkuk must have a poetic or sublime nature,” Bodine writes, and poetry is the best way to describe her brief, powerful pieces. She presents them in three different sections: argument, acceptance and awe, which she also sees as a description of Habakkuk’s actions: “He questions, he shakes his fist, he does what is necessary to get answers, to be one with god.” Bodine takes readers through her emotional battle with her religious faith over the course of her illness—not through direct narrative or biblical interpretation, but through beautifully abstracted moments, including passing thoughts she addresses directly to God: “What were you thinking when you conjured up disease?” she asks him. “If you’re fishing for compliments on this one, let me tell you, I’m not a fan.” At these times, Bodine’s meditations become sublime. For the most part, her tone remains intelligent, authoritative and even grandiose, but she also sneaks in dry, witty and snide comments. Her dialogue with her creator often feels as darkly funny as a David Sedaris story or a Julia Sweeney routine, and like those comedy masters, she has perfect timing: “So unladylike of me to shout,” she says to God, “yet this is what I am reduced to. I am she-who-is-pretty-exquisite-at-arguing.” By adding such moments to her biblical reflections, Bodine has created something very clever, very honest and very human.

A challenging, inspiring and funny work for anyone who loves the poetic form.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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ONCE UPON A GIRL

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

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Keridan’s poetry testifies to the pain of love and loss—and to the possibility of healing in the aftermath.

The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman once wrote that literature—and poetry, in particular—can help us “read the wound” of trauma. That is, it can allow one to express and explain one’s deepest hurts when everyday language fails. Keridan appears to have a similar understanding of poetry. She writes in “Foreword,” the opening work of her debut collection, that “pain frequently uses words as an escape route / (oh, how I know).” Many words—and a great deal of pain—escape in this volume, but the result is healing: “the ending is happy / the beginning was horrific / so let’s start there.” The book, then, tracks the process of recovery in the wake of suffering, and often, this suffering is brought on by romantic relationships gone wrong. An early untitled poem opens, “I die a little / taking pieces of me to feed the fire / that keeps him warm / you don’t notice that it’s a slow death / when you’re disappearing little by little.” The author’s imagery here—of the self fueling the dying fire of love—is simultaneously subtle and wrenching. But the poem’s message, amplified elsewhere in the book, is clear: We go wrong if we destructively give ourselves over to others, and healing comes only when we turn our energies back to our own good. Later poems, therefore, reveal that self-definition often equals strength. The process is painful but salutary; when “you’re left unprotected / surrounded by chaos with nothing you / can depend on / except yourself / and that’s when you gather the pieces / of the life you lost / and use them to build the life you want.” The “life you want” is an elusive goal, and the author knows that the path to self-definition is fraught with peril—but her collection may give strength to those who walk it.

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72770-538-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Endings

POETRY AND PROSE

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.

Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-3693-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016

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