BOOK REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
ON ALMOST ENTIRELY,
INTERVIEW WITH WILL WOOLFITT of "SPEAKING OF MARVELS"
REVIEW BY MARY HARWELL SAYLER
In this age of cynicism and, often, fury, Jennifer Wallace lifts us from doubt and despair into spiritual insight and buoyancy in her new book of poems Almost Entirely published by Paraclete Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review.
REVIEW BY GRAHAM CHRISTIAN IN THE LIBRARY JOURNAL
Wallace’s new collection is a stark book: sincere in its continual engagement with doubt, silence, absence, and loneliness.
Between Faith & Doubt REVIEW BY ANN CONWAY in Image Journal Update
Referring to her new poetry collection, Jennifer Wallace remarks, “I like the sense of ‘entirely’ modified by ‘almost’... That’s my sense of life in this world.” These short poems limn the course of a mature artistic life and its struggle between faith and doubt, the incarnate and the unseen, love and loss. Almost Entirely, Wallace’s seventh book, examines the search for wholeness, including re-exploration of Wallace’s Christian roots. In the opening section, “The Wind of God” is evoked as it “...moved over the face of the waters.” Yet often, the writer notes, “God has turned my head in the right direction/ yet I haven’t seen the gesture for what it is.” Vision necessitates discernment. Recalling Kierkegaard’s observation that “Christianity is not a consolation/ but a demand,” Wallace observes, “Call me crazy, hardship appeals/.... now the problem of attending it begins.” But attention can be difficult. Of a friend’s murder, the poet writes: “How to feel his death? On the street. / The shots. My friend’s scream.” Even the faith that allows one to bear a “wing giving way” brings “meanings that will shatter me more than this.” Nothing is sentimentalized here. As “I Don’t Like People; Animals, Too, Are an Imposition” relates, our lives daily encompass ordinary trials, like “a mean as a chainsaw bad neighbor.” It is ours to get on with things; the poet “has chores to do: chop wood, fix the wall in my yard.” But luckily, there is also grace’s blinding flash, that occasional release to something else, almost entirely: “resting on its surface with sail or paddle/I am brought beyond my landedness/not until diving under can I know/ its pillowed, dull moss-light...a body is seen at last for what it is:/awash in the eye of God.”
REVIEW BY GLYNN YOUNG IN tweetspeak: the best in poetry and poetic things
What Wallace does is to look deeply at what makes us human, and what is within us that keeps reaching for the divine.
REVIEW BY Barbara Mahany in the Chicago Tribune http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/sc-books-spiritual-roundup-0214-story.html
Thank you, Barbara Mahany....and be sure to read the whole review, also featuring books by Meera Lee Patel & Margaret Dulaney
Jennifer Wallace’s poems, gathered here in “Almost Entirely” — a collection that toggles between the sacred and profane, faith and doubt, love and unrequited love — clearly earns comparisons to such masters as Scott Cairns, Mary Oliver and Christian Wiman — as well as the claim to her own poetic country.
A poet, photographer, and teacher living in Baltimore and rural western Massachusetts, Wallace edits poetry for The Cortland Review, and her religious orientation is described thusly: “after decades of avoidance and experimentation, she decided in her 50s to get serious about her spiritual practice and is now, mostly, happily settled within her Christian roots.”
What pulses through these prayer poems, besides an abiding knowledge of grief coupled with a palpable faith in the afterlife, is the residue of Catholic imagery, a childhood of nuns and priests and Latin prayer. Any one of Wallace’s poems might be a morning’s meditation or analeptic on a sleepless night.
Consider this haunting stanza, from “Requiem,” her seven-part poem: “Perhaps we are here to make of earth a minor heaven / where birds will glide higher / in an air made more full / by the dead’s barely audible sigh.”
The Presbyterian Outlook: "Spring Books: briefly noted" Roy Howard
The author is intent on being honest with faith and reason, hence the title. In these poems she lingers on the edge of faith without tipping falsely into affirmations ungrounded in human life. The poems express faith and ordinary human experience.
Half Way to Entirely , Michele Morin, https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/half-way-to-entirely/
C.S. Lewis described the human condition as a process of always becoming
https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/half-way-to-entirely/ 5/29/18, 2>15 PM Page 1 of 11
more of what we already are. These are cautionary words for me at this point in middle age, particularly as I consider the possibilities. In Lewis’s The Great Divorce, the Teacher speaks regretfully of a seemingly harmless woman who has come to the end of her life, not as a “grumbler,” but as “only a grumble.”
It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. . . You can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine. (74, 75)
Thanks be to God, it seems that this tendency can work in positive ways as well, and the poet Hayden Carruth bears witness to this, declaring in his “Testa- ment”: “Now I am almost entirely love.” Whatever sifting and sandpapering process brought him to that state, his words inspired Jennifer Wallace as she collected an offering of her own poems.
In Almost Entirely: Poems (Paraclete Poetry) the reader is treated to the process of a woman becoming. As one who is “predisposed by nature to question everything,” (17) Wallace reconciles her doubts with the pres-
ence of a God who is well able to take in hand her persistent wondering. In the process, God shows up in both surprising and ordinary ways within the pauses:
In the foreordained turning of the head to view a crow in flight or a “squirrel passage, or a person with whom I share an ever-present reaching toward.” (20)
In a poignant pondering of “life’s second half”:
“Tell me, someone:
with the spade of days remaining, how to turn the soil
and where.” (34)
Finding Joy in the Cup of Shadow
Far-from-glib reflections excavate grief and plumb the depths of disappoint- ment with God, borrowing words from C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed to lament that faith can sometimes feel like “the rope that holds until we need it.” Wallace riffs on Psalm 23 when her “cup of shadow” (24) overflows, and she asks for grace to unbolt the door and walk into a season we’re so tempted to deny.
For most of us, by the time we reach middle age, the jarring truth has been well-established that “the world won’t behave, not even for me.” (39) We are ruefully accustomed to the phone call that describes the disappointing diagno- sis of a parent, a friend, a spouse. These are the days when we awaken to an early dawn and begin to take attendance:
“Whose time will come next? Storm taken.
A tiny fracture in a cell.”
Even now, there is grace to find joy in a dusty yellow warbler who hops “in the autumn dogwood near the gate . . . on its way to Venezuela” (49) and to rejoice in the memory of a beautiful, normal day (77).
In every season of life, we dwell in the conflicted joy of The Two Pockets:
“In one is the message, ‘I am dust and ashes,’ and in the other, ‘for me the universe was made.'” Receiving the second in light of the first is the course of health and wholeness. This is enough. A simultaneous comprehension of these two truths will set us on a path that is almost entirely hope.
Many thanks to Paraclete Press (here in beautiful New England!) for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.