AT THE THRESHOLDS OF ELYSIUM by Douglas M. Gillette

AT THE THRESHOLDS OF ELYSIUM

Lyrical Illuminations for Lifting Spirit into Bliss
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A breathless, ambitious poetry book about the wonders of this world and the joys that lie beyond it.

Gillette (The Shaman’s Secret, 1997, etc.) counts himself among those people for whom poetry isn’t merely words artfully arranged, but a vehicle that can bring people closer to ultimate realities—to enlightenment, to the transcendent, even to God. He calls his poems “lyrical illuminations” that may aid readers in “realizing ourselves as Spirit.” This realization, he says, is also an “unfolding process of gradual ‘divinization,’ of a lifting up of who and what we are toward greater and ever more inclusive oneness with Beauty, Truth, and Goodness.” Of course, the process of this ascent begins here on Earth, and some of the poet’s most beautiful works are nature poems that sing the splendors of the mundane. So the gorgeous “March Dawn” begins, “Dawn launches from the south-east through backyard trees, / verging the undergrowth, cathedraling our lawn. / Long-drawn extruded wash of white, it crashes soundless / past buds, articulating leaves / like a super-celestial wave.” Gillette’s dramatic verb choices—from “launches” to “verging,” “crashes” to “articulating”—fill his verse with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Although the scene here is a simple sunrise, the poet stages it as if it were a fireworks display. Further, his daring but precise diction allows him to get away with nonstandard, unexpected participles like “cathedraling.” Eventually, Gillette’s far-reaching collection takes off, and a late piece called “En-Heavening” veritably vibrates as it rises: “Pelting up those fabled sea-blue roads on high, invisible / to all but those who know them—this, with inward visioning— / I race the frigid winds which whip the tops of violet cumuli / to froth and spume.” There’s only one word for such verse: exultant. And Gillette pulls it off without a trace of mawkishness or sentiment. 

Poems that promise bliss and deliver more often than one might expect.   

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-692-77164-8
Page count: 590pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2017