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Epistles: Poems Paperback – October 1, 2007

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Known in the 1980s as a New Formalist-a crusader for traditional rhymes and meters-the prolific and thoughtful Jarman now attracts more attention as a poet of Christian belief. That belief, its relevance to everyday life, and its implications for a literary style, become the constant topic for this set of thirty gentle prose poems, their interests and occasionally their phrasings taken from the Epistles of St. Paul. Jarman searches for connections between the next world and the one all around us, between the ideas he pursues and the life he sees: "There is no formula for bliss," he says early on, "yet why not pretend there is?" Welcoming paragraphs and insistent sentences all but invite readers to pray along with Jarman, or at least make clear what he derives from prayer: "at the meeting, the assembly of the lost where we are heading, our heaven will be desert distance, dunes of self-denial." Anxious (and well-informed) about modern science, always personal if rarely autobiographical, Jarman may imagine this volume not only as a book of prose poetry, but as a meditative religious aid; "the objects of God's love," he concludes, "are more numerous than we can ever hope to accept." Whatever its fate as contemporary poetry, this heartfelt volume could find a substantial following among readers who seek intelligent short essays about their faith.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


While most of the poems explore faith in its many manifestations, there is something here transcendent that speaks to everyone. Highly recommended. -- Library Journal, September, 2007 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932511539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932511536
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,738,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert McDowell on October 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
A Catholic who claimed that St. Francis is perhaps the most beloved of saints would meet few arguments, even from non-Catholics. His popularity might be gauged by the number of gardens in which his statue appears, usually feeding birds or holding out his delicate hand to deer and rabbits. Many garden owners aren't especially religious, but they're attracted to St. Francis anyway. And why not? In humility and compassion, he almost transcends those pious partygoers, his fellow saints.

But even the divine Francis faced a late test that plagued his life of service and devotion. He feared lepers. He found them repulsive, disgusting, horrific. Seeing one on the road or in the village, he'd literally turn and run away like a hysterical child. This uncontrollable fear almost led to Francis renouncing his vows and leaving the monastery. How could he do God's work when he couldn't even do the work of a simple, compassionate man?
Francis's spiritual struggle was terrific. We know he succeeded (we need only check a few gardens to be assured of that), but how? Walking down a lane one day, Francis met up with his worst nightmare. A horribly disfigured leper burst out of the hedge and onto the road directly in Francis's path. The men stopped, facing each other. A moment later, Francis threw his arms around the leper and kissed him on the mouth. A signature moment, a St. Francis moment.

This is a beautiful, inspiring resolution, but we can only wonder about Francis's years of struggle before he spiritually broke through.

Mark Jarman's new book of poetry consists of 30 letters to God, to believers and non-believers, to familiars, and to himself that give us the marvelous experience of living and working through just such a struggle.
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