An exhaustive spiritual journey unspooled in free verse, short prose and original artwork.
An assemblage of 17 chapbook-length collections, this massive volume intimidates by its dimensions and heft alone; however, once inside, readers will find accessible poetry that invites browsing rather than marathon reading sessions. Thanks in large part to the endlessly recursive nature of the poetry, there’s not a best place to start or finish. In fact, the image of spindled time perfectly captures the experience of encountering Henderson’s cosmic tome, as he circles a central, eternal mystery, sometimes spiraling in and sometimes flying around. This rhythmic alternation of inward and outward focus is one of Henderson’s persistent themes, introduced in the prologue—“Looking outward, at my world, / I observed the constant changes around me, / Peering inward, I analyzed / My own shifting feelings”—and revisited frequently, most memorably in several examples of concrete poetry featuring spirals and waves. Elsewhere, various narrators on numerous “paths” and “journeys” invariably learn how much they do not yet know. In Blakean fashion, Henderson strives to deconstruct the tension of man simultaneously seeing himself as “the image of perfection” and as a “mere, and mortal, fool.” Wisdom, he suggests, lies in unifying both visions, often via paradox. In “The Flight of the Spirit,” for instance, the narrator laments, “I have searched for an escape. / But, death comes to all. / Escape then, is inevitable. / Life is short.” After further contemplation, however, he instead concludes that “chains are loosened by death. / The soul drifts into the freedom / Of eternity, / Forever has no end / If death is short / And life is everlasting.” For all its lofty philosophical inquiries, Henderson’s poetry is generally unadorned, marked by plain speech and the occasional simple rhyme scheme. Because the mystic nature of these revelations is likely to confound reason, the mind can be slow to believe. After enough repetitions, the contemplation could descend into navel-gazing, so reading in small doses may be the best approach.
Readers who see spiritual perfection as a journey, rather than a destination, will appreciate Henderson as a fellow traveler.