In the Age of Glare

In Lewis Hyde'

In Lewis Hyde’s masterpiece The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, he writes, "A market exchange has an equilibrium or stasis: you pay to balance the scale. But when you give a gift there is momentum, and the weight shifts from body to body."

Poetry - and art in general - is not a "product" generated for the market exchange. Even if a poet wins a few cash prizes or gets a few nickels in royalties, the creation of the poem and the releasing of the poem into the body of those who have ears to hear is gift, pure and simple. Three new collections of poems present such an offering.

The first is Rod Jellema’s A Slender Grace. For a number of years the poetry editor for The Other Side magazine, Jellema also founded the creative writing program at the University of Maryland. A Slender Grace is his fourth collection in 30 years and was named book of the year (2004) by the Conference on Christianity and Literature. "This was the book that I carried with me to work, on the bus," said an awards committee member. "This was the book from which I quoted to family and friends."

Jellema writes like Vermeer paints. The poems are technically brilliant, yet limpid, translucent. His Dutch Calvinist background means he’s never far from the fallen world ("This is not an age of dark, but of glare"), but, as the title conveys, we live, move, and love by a slender grace. Here is Jellema on green beans: "No need to slit the tight skin/down to its pearls. Just snap/the stem and bite."

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Sojourners Magazine July 2005
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