4 out of 4 stars
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catches us and we see the spectrum of light
where our auras touch.
-- from "Community: June 26, 2015"
Kathleen McCoy knows that our auras do touch, and she explores those occurrences in Ringing the Changes. This collection of poetry is full of stunning imagery and compelling concepts, inspiring an in-depth look at how lives interconnect. If I had to choose a theme for this book, it would certainly be unity.
This book is a well-written, remarkable collection of poetry that concentrates mostly on Christian topics. However, McCoy's poems also include other religions and the legalization of marriage "for all American couples." Before most poems, McCoy includes quotes from various authors and the Bible. I found this a profoundly interesting complement to the poems. It reflects on the author's perspective and adds to readers' understanding. Most of these works are short poems that don't rely on rhymes. Instead, they rely on vivid imagery, alliteration, and other poetic devices.
There are many poems about dreams throughout the book, and the first of the four sections of poetry is entitled, "Dreams and Meditations." This musical line written with internal slant rhymes is from "In dreams' liminal land:" "there is light on umber evenings, ombre rooms, amber hands." The author's use of the rhymes to connect the imagery here creates a lasting picture that pulls the reader into the scene. Another poem in this section is "Student Teachers," a powerful poem discussing human hurts like abuse, addiction, and anger. Its compelling first line is, "I don't know anyone over twenty who isn't/ brokenhearted."
The second section is titled "Waiting in Wonder / Advent Dreams" and is about the birth of Jesus Christ and the people involved in the events surrounding that. In this section, we first see poetry with an uncommon stanza format: the lines are divided in half and are set up in columns. This layout makes for focused sections of reading, making the words more powerful, and putting movement into them. While I cannot format the spacing correctly here, I want to include an example of the importance of the pause. The following lines are from "Meeting Gabriel:" "how the whole of language (break) intervenes and yet/ our silence (break) grows."
The third section, "Lent / Pasch / Passover," is my favorite. In this part, the author includes New Testament-inspired poems crafted from the points of view of Biblical figures as they encounter Jesus. These poems are beautiful and compelling. Some caused me to pause and reflect, like the poems about the Samaritan woman's conversion and Lazarus' resurrection. In my opinion, though, the most powerful poem is "Mary at Golgotha." This poem speaks from Mary's viewpoint as she witnesses Jesus hanging on the cross. "Would to God these nails/ wouldn't split your gentle head,/ you couldn't see me driven to hell/ on the back of your wooden beast./ If this is a dream, let us both waken soon."
The final section, "Ordinary Time," is a collection of poetry on several topics that all still relate to unity. One that stands out is "Amish Quilt," which discusses the connections among our life experiences. This poem is full of beautiful imagery like, "Squinting eyes could mistake it/ for a stained glass window." This section also contains elegies and the title poem, "Ringing the Changes," a lovely treatment of the significance of bells in various situations like death, joy, and religion.
Not finding anything I dislike, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The poetry is strong, beautiful, and thought-provoking. I found only one typo in the book, so it seems to be professionally edited. Besides recommending it to poetry lovers, I also recommend it to people looking for refreshing looks into New Testament personalities. This collection is a beautiful reminder of how lives affect other lives.
Ringing the Changes
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