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Prose & Poetry in the Remaking of a Life

Book Notes: (1) How to Believe in God and (2) Sinners Welcome

(1) How to Believe in God is a book that sees the word God as only a word—a word, nonetheless that expresses universal presence and love extended to all people, believers and non-believers alike. A presence, too, the only presence that knows why things are the way they are. This is a book for the devout of any faith who may find new ways to states of awe, humility, gratefulness and trust and for the unbeliever who may sense some emptiness in life but has no desire to claim membership in any fellowship other than the fellowship of man.

It is written by an author with the gift of simplicity: patient, clear, imaginative and experienced—start to almost finish—it’s critical to finish. For me, it was an unexpected understanding. Author is Clark Strand. Strand is a Buddhist with a Bible—yes the Bible—under his arm, but his reading is different. See for yourself. The only that item that marred this beautiful book is Strand’s contorted connection between the book of Revelation’s baleful prophesy (which was intended, as he admits, for first century Christians) and global warming. One might only wish that he would read a little Peter Huber and Freeman Dyson to temper his reading of this final book of the Bible and keep it in spirit with the rest of his outlook.

(2) Sinners Welcome is a book of poetry by a master, Mary Karr. I was pointed to this book by an experienced poet who thought I, a new poet, could learn from it. Well, she had that right and I love the way this woman captures defeat, the stuff of life, and how redemption can still be won. Mary Karr knows no innocence; she has run along the bottom real life, hides nothing, and knows how to say it without varnish. She has tasted ash and miraculously finds her way back through Catholicism. She concludes this marvelous book of verse with an essay titled “Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer.”

Why have I teamed this book up with How to Believe in God? Well, not because Mary Karr’s way is the way but a way and the specific can become general for the reader. We could all use her grit and perception. If you like poetry, you can’t do better, and then there’s this side bonus of seeing how a destroyed life can be put back together.