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How God Ends Us (Winners of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize) Paperback – April 1, 2009
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"What a refreshing range of vision DéLana Dameron shows in these splendid poems. Ever rich with the arresting image, ever graceful and yet refusing to look away from a suffering that calls grace into question--from the 'assemblies of the shattered / in Harlem' to the steady inevitability of how the flesh must fail us--these poems argue for witness as the only way of knowing--of being somehow grateful for--a world that is always leaving us, even as we ourselves must leave it."--Carl Phillips, author of Riding Westward and The Tether
"How God Ends Us is the luminous debut of a poet who helps us shape the geometrics of sudden change that are too much with us. The observations the poet makes in this collection are of the wanderer pondering the persistent question that lives in many of us of why things come to be and why they cease."--Afaa Michael Weaver, author of The Plum Flower Dance and The Ten Lights of God
From the Inside Flap
Poetic conversations with a God whose omnipotence brings both peace and uncertainty
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The first section of How God Ends Us dealt with the rift caused by death and the second seems to deal with pain in general. The first poem in part two, "Excavation," can be read as a poem about death, but it is more about opening old wounds or the suffering of the living. The speaker in these poems often seems to be Dameron speaking from personal experience discussing her grandfather, missionary experience in Jamaica, and visit to South Carolina). Though one can't assume that the speaker and the poet are one in the same, many of the poems that seem less personal and seem to be told by a narrator other than the poet tend to be labeled (such as the ekphrastics). Finally, the poems in the third section of the collection seem to be about hunger, wanting, or (dare I say it!) desire. The poems from this section that resonated most with me were the ones I felt were about the poet's mother: "Ode to the Camel-Hair Brush" and "The Space Between." The poems that feature other family members cast those people in a more flattering light; it is obvious from the "mother" poems that there exists a different relationship between the speaker and mother. What I appreciated most about these poems was their subtlety. It's easy to use harsh language and vivid images to convey a point. In the "Ode," we see the mother with a hairbrush "in the holster / of her purse." In "Space Between," the speaker tells of the distance between two people, as if to illustrate the idea that absence doesn't necessarily make the heart grow fonder, but that absence is just the way it has to be, sometimes.
As a formalist, I appreciated the quietly formal pantoum "Mala is for Mediatation" for its fluidity. I have a pretty keen eye for all things formal, and I was thrilled that it took me three stanzas to realize that I was reading a pantoum. To me, formal poetry done exceptionally well creeps up on the reader and sounds modern and new. This poem is the perfect marriage of (repetitive) form and function because meditation requires a practitioner to ruminate on and reiterate ideas.
How God Ends Us is a carefully constructed collection of poems that are simultaneously accessible and challenging. Dameron writes about things that most people can relate to, but adds her own personal touch, thus making the ordinary her own.
There are some poems which stuck out to me. "Even the Clouds Came to Gather" is an excellent example of the immensity of loss, and at times, the indifference of the world. But the poem also does a good job of capturing the human desire to have command of the forces of nature, to defy death in a way. Also, I enjoyed the poem, "Too Late to Uncapture". It could work as a counter part to the former poem, in that, by using a camera, the speaker is able to stop/reverse time, only ironically the speaker wishes to rescind that ability. In the end, pictures or simple memories can't carry immortality. It's the pain of our stories, the details.