Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Walking with Ruskin

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Walking with Ruskin

Article excerpt

Walking with Ruskin. By Robert Cording. Fort Lee, N. J. : CavanKerry Press Ltd., 2010. 93 pp. $16.00 (paper).

At the outset of Walking with Ruskin, poet Robert Cording invites his readers to join the pursuit of local wonders. Sharing a Christian worldview and interests with renowned nineteenth-century art critic John Ruskin, Cording explores in this wide-ranging collection such fields as history, botany, literature, and music. Recurring themes of prayer, repentance, perseverance, and the hope of things not yet revealed mark the trail. A central feature of the landscape is the elevation of the commonplace.

Cording divides his collection into five levels of awareness. The first section, All at Once, introduces a first-person perspective and its limitations. In "Staying Awake," the narrator observes how hard it is to attend to the things we know, the things we have been told: "how the drag and suck of Everyday / conspires against my waking" (p. 7). This assessment attaches itself to our routine experience of being mostly unconscious, sleeping through the daily lessons of glory. In a similar scene, "Thirty Second Concert" notes a lack of focus on what we hear. In "Czeslaw Miloszs Glasses," the prospect of a new prescription will not be enough to perfect the poetic vision flawed by our fallen condition. These poems of acknowledgment are critical first steps on the walk to discovery.

Ou the second leg of the journey, in and Out examines fife's thorns of sorrow and the injustices of human experience, which produce a "need to make sense / where no sense is" (p. 39). Poems track a missing girl, visitors to a church shelter, and an impoverished boy in Costa Rica, and so connect the reader to Ruskin and his promotion of the social gospel. The mitigation of hardships comes as a biblically mandated willingness to identify and bear the burdens of others as they suffer.

At the root of Cordings collection is Backward, a series of reflections and prayers for a mother on the passing of her child. Told from the perspective of a compassionate narrator deeply involved in the grieving process, this cycle of poems touches the heart of our mortality and the irrefutable need of a savior.

The section titled Here senses the resurfacing of a self more attentive to the details of nature and its lessons: a pond, swallows, "their quick swerves and glides continuous" (p. 65), dandelions, a golden retriever. …

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