Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Second Sky: Poems

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Second Sky: Poems

Article excerpt

Second Sky: Poems. By Tania Runyan. The Poiema Poetry Series. Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2014. 73 pp. $12.00 (paper).

In Second Sky, National Endowment of the Arts fellow Tania Runyan mixes contemporary situations with the thought-provoking, sometimes controversial writings of St. Paul. The result? Powerful poems that stir both brain and spirit.

This is a book to read on several levels, each poem deepening into another. Runyan links all fifty-seven works to specific verses from St. Pauls epistles and histories. But these are no simple pairings. The poems and biblical passages serve as commentaries on each other. Both ancient and modernday worlds breed spiritual struggles. Biblical personas and suburban soccer moms yearn for and deny the Alpha and Omega.

Runyan acknowledges such tension in the opening poem, "Eutychus Raised from the Dead." Here we witness not only the physical and spiritual reawakening of the young man fallen from the loft, but also the poet's reactions to the Almighty and his apostle.

I, too, have slumped

at the sound of Paul's voice,

plummeted from the ledge,

the skeleton of my belief

disjointed and smashed.

But sometimes he stops

just long enough to find me

bleeding. Sometimes he takes

my face in his rough hands,

and I wake. (p. v)

Yes, the apostles admonishments can be hard to hear and our rising "difficult" (p. 52). Paul's familiar voice may put us to sleep, or its seeming harshness may shake our beliefs. But his words also can be loving, as he holds us with rough but healing hands and wakes us to epiphany. And always, we are cradled by the hands of God.

True, we do not always recognize our need for rebirth, as in the poem "Newness of Life: South African man wakes after 21 hours in morgue fridge." A response to Romans 6:4, the piece ends with, "Some burst alive / on the pyres of the Spirit. / Some blink open How did I get here? /1 never knew I was dead" {p. 4).

This is a book of deaths and resurrections, of wounds and miraculous healings, of sight taken away or restored. Not always, though, is it both. In 'The Faith to Be Made Well" (Acts 14:8-10), the poet claims even God knows sudden healings don't "happen / to people like me, people who make a home / of their tiny, stinging wounds" (p. 25).

The book is filled with scales of doubt, but also images of sight and insight. …

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