by Patrice M. Wilson
“Faith is like crabgrass. It won’t give up.”
Although the epigraph suggests that the theme of these works is the persistence of faith, that is, its ability to sustain itself even when we don’t necessarily want it to, there seems to me much more than that in the book’s contents.
A word of introductory caution: this lovely chapbook of fifteen sonnets should be read only after you read the brief biographical note at its end, so that you can fully appreciate and understand the meanings of the poems individually and as a whole.
These pieces contain the author’s feelings about a number of her life’s events. Some of them focus on a specific event but open up into larger areas of meaning by the end; others seem to look back at one or a series of events that made a general impression on the poet, which she describes within the poem. All fifteen poems reflect on human qualities in the face of Christian values, especially the reality that we live by Faith in the presence of God.
The first poem, for instance, is such an honest account of what it is like to wake up later in the morning than one would like, adjusting oneself by reading or calling to mind a Psalm, and then facing the day with an awareness of one’s own human imperfections–all this mindful thought triggered by only one minute of the poet’s life. We, the readers, come away with a feel for the poet’s sensibilities and her attention to detail, mixing the mundane with the spiritual. The name of the poem: “What Am I Learning?”
In the ninth poem, we read an interesting statement that seems to conclude that not being “in charge” of church activities leaves more time for a devoted individual to enjoy the peace of the Lord, as some men who are more actively involved and maybe overly enthusiastic seem not to have, as this writer observes. There is again a spark of humor in this poem, as in the first. Here, I found it helpful to remember that the author has been actively engaged in church ministries over a long period of time, as she says in her biographical note.
The final poem, “Ascension,” depicts Our Lord at the seaside, cooking the fish for His apostles, who had been on their boat all night and caught nothing. The poet describes the simplicity of His actions: “He was not there to judge, condemn, nor preach/ Just grill some fish…” A beautiful pre-Pentecost poem that highlights the apostles’ feelings at the time, is a fitting end to this collection, as it echoes similar feelings of the writer in other poems in the book.
It is my intention to interest you in reading this chapbook through the three examples I have brought out in this review. So, you poetry lovers, and you tireless lovers of the Church, will find this short book of insights by a poet of the faithful a delightful read, in my opinion. For others, I say: Try it, you’ll like it!
Born Catholic in Newark NJ, raised in Catholic schools, Patrice M. Wilson has a PhD in English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, having earned her MA there and her BA at the University of Maryland, College Park. She was editor of the very fine Hawaii Pacific Review for 16 years while teaching at Hawaii Pacific University. She has three chapbooks of poetry with Finishing Line Press, and one full-length poetry collection with Christian publisher eLectio Publishing. Dr. Wilson recently spent five years in the cloistered Carmelite monastery in Kaneohe, HI. She is now a retired professor living in Mililani, Oahu, HI.