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Book Reviews


"With poems that are both imaginative and erudite, this book encompasses questions of perennial concern. It often dissects such questions in modern settings and with contemporary language. Its topics include the nature of God, the existence of evil, the brutality of capitalism, the loneliness of existence, and the reach of human love. Each entry is brief; some are composed of just a few lines. Each word counts in these poems, including their titles, which are often essential to comprehension. Still, entire worlds exist in these jewel boxes because of their precise linguistic turns, clever line breaks, and uses of alliteration and assonance"


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"Dedicated to 'beautiful souls swallowed by darkness,' this striking collection from Xueyan joins sharply sculpted lines, a penchant for emotionally charged descriptions of nature and divinity, an urgent longing for connection, and a reverence for Christ, whom the poet imagines, in a verse of rhapsodic transformation, first carrying the poet "along the thorny path of blood and flame" while Xueyan is a butterfly on his holy shoulders.... Xueyan wastes no words in these crisp, pared-down poems, though they're not short on meaning, mystery, or power. The biblical themes often connect to ideas of perseverance, as "John the Divine" finds in the life of the Baptist of the Gospels the lesson "Passion as paddle / belief as boat." "Parting: A Red Sea Love Story" at first seems tragicomic, as two fish who have fallen for each other are torn apart as a consequence of Moses's parting of the Red Sea. But the final lines offer a haunting evocation of a love that endures"



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"This is not a book for the casual poetry fan; from the first page to the last, the poems are dramatic and deeply spiritual. "Breaking free from waves of sorrows / I leap ashore / Stars coronate me / beads of tears on hairs ribboned by light / I am owned by eternity," writes Xueyan in her collection's closing work and author's note. The collection's nearly 140 concise poems, arranged in four parts, dwell mostly on the nature of human devotion, the heavens, and the machinations of God, and they do not provide answers.... Part of the book's intrigue lies in the author's opacity and lack of personal details. The closing poem, "To Wake," does the best job of distilling the poet's seeming intended takeaway for her readers about the dissonance of Christian aspirations compared with the burden of everyday life: "Humans wake because they are hungry / not because they love the world"



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