Animals role-play events from humanity’s history, highlighting its foibles and providing a few laughs.
Feinland (Homesick for Heaven, Part 3, 2014, etc.) tells a fable of Western civilization during four eras: from Jesus’ birth to his betrayal and crucifixion; from the early days of Christianity to the Middle Ages; from the French Revolution to World War II; and from the disputed U.S. presidential election of 2000 to an imagined future uprising of the underclass and a time of blissful peace. He does it all in the form of a long, epic poem, using a menagerie of animals to stand in for humans. In the beginning, a chaste lion falls in love with a moon deity he calls “Diana.” A virgin lioness named Marlene follows Diana and gives birth to a cub named Leo who, as prophesied in the poem, goes on to “splash ’round in our tub / And rule us with a hand of iron. / He will preach unto them / Who love Hashem [God] / With mighty power.” Leo goes on to lead a band of apostles, including animals named Simple Simon, Andy, and Rocky. Three days after a band of wolves kills Leo, Diana’s rays revive him. The story blazes on through the centuries as the cast of animals changes. Feinland revels in wordplay, from the simple to the obscure. Rocky the Lion, for example, stands in for Peter the first pope (“Peter” comes from the Latin “petrus,” or “rock”), and a wolf named Dolf cries out to his followers, “Ve volves must look after our own / Or be left mitout efen ein bone!” Later, an Australian media-mogul kangaroo “hopped over to America / Publishing and filming garbage.” As a result, despite its cast of animal characters, this retelling is more suited to adult readers. Feinland’s poetry is rangy and varied, moving from blank verse to rhymed couplets to simple four-line rhymes and back again. Sometimes the lines seem smooth and natural, and at others, they’re squeezed uncomfortably into their forms. The most appreciative readers will be those who know the underlying biblical and historical tales, as they’ll chuckle at the reframing.
An idiosyncratic poetic lark with a clear religious message.