Reviewed by: Chris Campbell
The World as We Know It Is Falling Away, by Jane Greer. Lambing, 2022. Paperback, 54 pages, $15.95 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP ruling elder Chris Campbell.
Soon after we moved into a rented house on what had been a small North Dakota farm, a neighbor came by on his horse, which he brought right up to the dining room window, its gaze both startling and delighting our children. In a similar way, Roman Catholic author Jane Greer taps on a window with her book of poems The World as We Know It Is Falling Away. The poems present a landscape of faith that may be startling at times, but one that should resonate with and delight the readers of New Horizons.
I’d like to pass on a few of the book’s highlights to whet your appetite. Several of the poems involve biblical and theological subjects. “I Lived in Paradise,” for instance, begins with the couplet: “I lived in Paradise but then I fell. / Outside of Paradise can seem like Hell.” Another poem provides a testimony from the Apostle Paul (“Thorn”), while “Two Men in White Address Them” retells the angels’ admonishment to the disciples in Acts 1. “He Paces” provides a wonderful comment on the Law as a reflection of God’s will, and how we risk our relationship with him when we cross its line.
“Eschaton Song,” with a refrain based on 1 Corinthians 7:31 (the basis for the book’s title), may be viewed as the book’s centerpiece; the poem suggests our remedy to the fall from Paradise—
Let go of lust and pride and treasure,
relentless longing, fleeting pleasure.
Release the few things you do well.
Meanwhile, Death is going to Hell.
Death is going to Hell to stay.
The world is falling away.
Equally as compelling are the poems about relationships—mother and son, daughter and mother. The speaker in “More” voices faithless complaints to God in the face of death (note: the speaker’s perspective should not be identified with the poet’s). “First Elegy,” on the other hand, is a lament over the loss of a mother. Another tour-de-force, this poem maps out the unfolding of a battle with cancer, death, and its aftermath, which Greer poignantly articulates—
We have joined the ranks of those not children any longer
who flounder, suddenly irresolute and full of worry,
who let some details slide, for how long I can’t be sure.
What I am quite sure of is that Mother
would be stronger.
A review of Greer’s book would be lacking without a comment about the shape of her poems. As editor of the Plains Poetry Journal from 1981 to 1993, Greer advanced a movement in poetry circles referred to as the New Formalism. My enjoyment of her book partly derives from the poetic forms she masterfully uses, leading to a restraint and understatement that give way, in turn, to the discoveries of a faith arrived at.
I’ll close with a suggestion to the future reader—overlook the eleven blurbs in front of the book about Greer’s poetry and go directly to the poems. The poems contain a light of their own and can do without these kind efforts at illumination.
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