About the Book
Title: Naming Rites
Author: Gary Boelhower
Release Date: May 16th 2017
Gary Boelhower’s third collection of poems explores the ways we are named and branded with multiple identities, a clay vessel molded and imprinted from the inside and the outside by those who know us or think they do, by wounds, worries, stones, and nicknames, by place and absence, by teachers and traitors. Boelhower dares to name the body’s blows and pleasures and how they are celebrated in solitude and connection. His language soars with ecstasy and burrows into hidden places in the soul. His lyrics tell how the world’s pain lodges in the cells and how the fragrance of summer stars opens an aperture to healing. Boelhower is winner of the Foley Prize from America and the Midwest Book Award for his second collection Marrow, Muscle, Flight.
This collection offers a wide range of subjects. I immersed myself in them because I couldn’t stop reading. Each section is different, offering another view of both the simplicity and complexity of life. There are poems about coming of age, discovering love, self-acceptance, and social justice. They might be best summed up as divided into two types: revealing and healing.
The poems I’m calling “revealing” are about exposing the human condition or peeling back the layers on our own identities and shortcomings. Those I’ve termed “healing” are refreshment for the soul and a reassurance that we are loved and there is good in the world.
There are a lot of themes about love, honesty, gratitude, and hope. The first section is probably my favorite. It’s highly sensory and speaks of both the rough and gentle sides of growing up in a rural community. I say “probably” because it’s difficult to settle on one set of poems that I liked better than another nor on a specific poem which stands out as my favorite.
I love when a book of poetry can so thoroughly draw me in and provide an engaging, sensory experience. While I understand that poetry may not be everyone’s cup of tea, these are worth reading. I ended up going through them quickly, both for reviewing and because I didn’t want to put the book down. However, now I want to go back through and read them more slowly and carefully, savoring them.
It’s difficult to capture in a single review just how much I loved these poems. All I can say is that they took me through a full range of emotions, and I’m a better person for having read them.
For beautiful words, a sensory experience, and the refreshment of my soul, this gets 10/10 fountain pens.
IN THE SILENCE
footsteps crunch on the cold snow
heaven’s full of falling mercy
the big arms of the pine
spread in prayer shawled in white
the whole everyday machine muffled
if everyone could say their name
in such silence we might hear
each one might send their small swirl
of hopes and prayers
spiraling out like sufi robes
in the dervish dance
and we might all
hear each other’s hands rise up
and we would know the one world’s song
all our rituals are attempts at listening
all our songs a preparation
for emptiness when our words
have all fallen away because we know
we are all whirling together
wherever you are however you do it
notice how we are all whirling together
in the great round dance
on this tiny rock with fire in its soul
through the grand galaxies
spinning with mercy and wonder
About the Author
Gary Boelhower’s poetry has been published in many anthologies and journals. His second collection of poems published in 2011, Marrow, Muscle, Flight won the Midwest Book Award. He was awarded the Foley Prize in poetry from America magazine in 2012 and a career development grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in 2010. His recent nonfiction books include Choose Wisely: Practical Insights from Spiritual Traditions, and Mountain 10: Climbing the Labyrinth Within,(co-authored with Joe Miguez and Tricia Pearce). His third collection of poems, Naming Rites, was published in April by Holy Cow! Press. Gary teaches courses in spirituality, ethics and leadership at The College of St. Scholastica where he is a professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department.
WIN a copy of Naming Rites and Marrow, Muscle, Flight by Gary Boelhower