Sunday, November 1, 2015


This rainy morning when the world outside my window is afloat, I was surprised when I opened a new collection of poetry from Pinyon Publishing in Montrose, Colorado (located on a high and dry plateau), and a poem that fit the inundations of the day leaped from the page:


rain. “

This whimsical piece spoke to my condition as I looked out at the gunmetal sky from which sheets of rain fell. The poem appears in After Eden by Diane Vreuls and is an amusing innovation placed among more serious poems that “curve back again to [their] norm,” as T.S. Eliot once wrote.

Most of the lyrics in this volume express the entirety of the poet’s sensitive life through spiritual musings in which the reader should not fear abstractions or ornamentation. There is clarity and concise perfection in Vreuls’ poetry about her spiritual journey, beginning with her observations about the Annunciation and culminating in “Botanicon,” a poem using plant symbolism to represent the depth of the poet’s feelings about Christ’s resurrection: “Each march/the earth/sends forth/fresh shoots/of bush and tree/not pale/firstlings/of green growth/but wine-/red tendrils/carmine whips/a blush/of buds/burst from/earth’s blood/announcing Resurrection.” Here, the poet takes the mysterious and inscrutable and translates it into one of Nature’s rituals without using elaborate art or superfluous lyrics.

In five sections of poetry that are a mixture of exaltation and truth seeking, Vreuls’ voice is at once prophetic and sympathetic. Her lyrics speak of both imperfect and perfect experiences and are expressed with a true poet’s sensibility. The poems often cast light on what is hidden in the human experience; e.g., the beautiful tribute to Saint Sourise, which is my favorite: “The night she heard the cries of a man being tortured/two countries distant, she prayed for the one/who awakened her, then for the torturer…Reclining after her midday meal she heard the cries/of the infant Jesus and ran to gather him close./In the stall lay a newborn calf nosing the teat of its mother…The cries of a woman in labor/gladden her heart. It is the sound,/she says, of the Earth birthing the day…Come to the altar, she cries,/and you will hear your name whispered/in the pouring wine…She is said to have died of grief—the grief/of others. If you wake in the night, she told us,/you have heard my cry.” There is something deeply Celtic in this poem, particularly in the line “of the Earth birthing day,” and the last line reads like a spiritual invocation. I could envision the Anglican sisters at St. Mary’s in Sewanee, where I worship when I am in Tennessee, chanting this poem at Morning Prayer or Vespers.

Among Vreuls’ brief poems representing her ability to craft a poem that has clarity and concision is a piece entitled “Source.” “Three transfusions,/can’t tell/whose/blood is/in my veins,/but at/Eucharist/I know.” As Yeats says, [This] poem comes right with a click like a closing box.”

The final poem in After Eden, entitled “Anno Animae In Terra 2015,” resonates with all of us who have been involved in the struggle to acknowledge and conform to a higher will. The last stanza records Vreuls’ acquaintance with this struggle: “…In this place all is mystery./ In its hunger you are my bowl./In its pain you measure music./In its primer you read the first word—/the Yes I am trying to learn.” Again, the poet shows her ability to write with clarity and concision reminiscent of the Acmeists who claimed they were dedicated to “beautiful clarity.”

Diane Vreuls is a poet who does not oversimplify the human predicament but is a powerful spokeswoman for the spiritual life and expresses the finer shades of feeling in her visionary work. She represents the growing body of outstanding contemporary poets being published by Pinyon Publishing. A recipient of an NEA Fellowship, she has published a novel, a short story collection, a children’s book, and a book of poems. Her work has appeared in Commonweal, The New Yorker, and the Best American Short Stories. She lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

Pinyon Publishing is an independent press located in Montrose, Colorado and its co-editors/publishers, Gary Entsminger and Susan Elliott, are dedicated to producing some of the best writing and art of our times.

Available at Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403 

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