According to Richard Rohr, the prophets in a social structure stand off-center in a place of observation. Their position on “the edge of inside” affords them a view that is informed and yet independent. From this vantage point, the Apostle John was given the divine direction: “Write what you see.” And he saw plenty.
At 90, Luci Shaw is still standing on “the edge of inside,” and she’s still enjoying the view. Her exuberance for life bubbles forth in words that stun and inspire, and her latest collection of poetry takes on topics as diverse as weather, prayer, aging and the writing process–all with seasoned wisdom.
An active outdoor life feeds Luci’s love of planet Earth, and Eye of the Beholder (Paraclete Poetry) invites readers to join her as she beholds the splendor. The frozen edge of a shallow bay becomes “a collar of intricate lace.” (52) The movement of water under a buffet of wind is “like silk breathing.” (54) In early spring, “tulip bulbs dream their own vegetable praise,” (66) while beloved birds, “music with feathers,” join in singing their own unique psalms. (22)
Beholding the Splendor
Generativity is a theme that ripples through Shaw’s words with integrity, for she is busy living her way into and through the aging process with its arthritis and its indignities by continuing to hone her craft and by daring to “dream optimism.” (87)
And no one writes seasonal poetry like Luci Shaw. The adornment of trees and moods of sky image their way into her words, and having composed original verse for her Christmas greetings since she was a child, her renderings of the biblical themes around incarnation and the glorious mysteries cause the deep Truth to sparkle anew:
“The dogwood leaves turn iron red in Fall,
their centers fully ripening–into small seeded balls,
each one a fruit vivid as Mary’s love, and edible.
The scion tree, once sprung from Jesse’s root,
speaks pain and life and love compressed
and taken in, eye, mouth, heart. Incredible
that now all Eucharists in our year suggest
the living Jesus is our Christmas guest.” (23)
When the eye of the beholder is connected to a poetic gift, the view is fresh and challenging, but everyone with an incarnational view of the universe is invited to behold the splendor in her own way. “Ordinary things may reveal the extraordinary for those willing to take time to investigate and ponder.” For Luci Shaw, ninety years of seeing has not taken the edge off wonder. This collection of new poems that focuses on the particulars and connects the dots to imagination are all the invitation I need.
Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
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