These collected poems approach the subject of love in a range of tones and styles.
This book is dedicated to a pair of newlyweds, and, as such, its poems could be considered to be epithalamiums. However, as debut author Bowen explains in an introductory “Proem,” she extends her definition of love beyond the human to the divine: “all love is entered in its fullness, / and nothing is omitted. // May I never forsake Him.” This collection is as eclectic as the subtitle suggests; the poems vary a good deal in tone (devotional, witty, and bawdy, by turns), as well as form. Some are in free verse, and others employ rhyme or haiku form. Bowen divides the work into four sections: “Flores Caelesti” (“heavenly flowers”), linking human and divine love; “Caelo Marique” (“sky and sea”), using images from nature; “Amor Insanus” (“crazy love”), offering playful and erotic poems; and “Pluit et Lucet” (“It rains and shines”), about the mixed nature (“half vinegar, half honey”) of long relationships. The poet’s use of language can be very effective, as in “I am Yours, a Soulful Avowal”: “I am bound to you, / not by vow, nor by will, nor by law, / but by divine grace.” The anapests in the second quoted line set up a rhythmic feeling of inevitability that helps make the third convincing. She also uses verbs to good effect, as in “To the Mother of My Love —”: “My heart is like a conifer-seed / That millenniums into tree.” The compression of “millenniums” as a verb, combined with the vast time span it connotes and the living result, a tree, conveys the heart’s journey with compact precision. On occasion, Bowen can be overly sentimental (“Two souls knit together. / Two lives become but one”) or employ awkward phrases, as in “Fortitude is the fragrance that drops from the cows,” which unfortunately suggests the odor of animal droppings. But several other works are clever exercises; “Fortune Cookies in Bed,” for instance, seems to be a found poem composed of aphorisms from the titular confections.
A compilation that celebrates the full spectrum of married and divine love, often with sensitivity and gusto.