A poet sings of the liberating power of religious devotion.
The relationship between lyrics and poetry is a complex one. Does verse sing? Is poetry like music? If so, how? Such questions will dance at the fronts of readers’ minds as they read Bernhards’ (Mixed Emotions, 2011, etc.) deeply felt collection of poetry, as so many of the pieces feel musical. The collection is a life’s work, written over decades, with some works dating back to the author’s teenage years. As the title makes clear, many poems address Bernhards’ personal relationship with God. One of the great strengths of this devotional verse is the author’s honesty as she lays bare the difficulties of faith and writes openly about the challenges of the religious life. In “The injuries,” for example, she addresses God directly: “You are special to me / Your existence cures me / So please have patience for me / The spark is still in me / I try to hold on to my forgiveness / That I will be as long as I believe / … / I love you Lord / So don’t give up on me / I need you Lord / So don’t be angry with me.” Her tone is plaintive but inviting, and her willingness to open up to her readers may compel them to open themselves up to her poetry. Most of the poems, like “The injuries,” are worthy contributions, but a few feel insufficiently developed, perhaps because they are the product of youth; “The appearance of the Lord in my life,” for instance, opens awkwardly: “When I look up in the sky / I wonder why / I ask me how / It’s all begun.” If such lines had been left out, the poet’s strengths would have been even more apparent.
A moving, melodic culmination of a life of writing.