Questions for Ecclesiastes

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Overview

The relationship between God and humankind is more troubling and urgent than ever. Questions for Ecclesiastes, especially the "20 Unholy Sonnets", handles problems of religious faith in fresh ways. They explore the parallels between family life and sacred myth, and attempt to revive the personal, devotional address to God.
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Overview

The relationship between God and humankind is more troubling and urgent than ever. Questions for Ecclesiastes, especially the "20 Unholy Sonnets", handles problems of religious faith in fresh ways. They explore the parallels between family life and sacred myth, and attempt to revive the personal, devotional address to God.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his latest collection, Jarman (The Black Riviera, 1990) reveals scenes from his life as a teenage surfer in California and as a husband and father: "To lie in your child's bed when she is gone/ Is as calming as anything I know. To fall/ Asleep, her books arranged above your head." Other, less ruminative works grapple with the possibility of God and the condition of humanity. The narrative "Transfiguration" conflates the words of Christ with the advice of a modern-day physician: "And he said, `All things are possible to those who believe. Shave her head,/ Insert a silicone tube inside her skull, and run it under her scalp.'" The irony in such poems is inescapable; not so clear are the points this irony is intended to serve. In the title poem, phrases from Ecclesiastes blend with an account of a contemporary teenage suicide. It ends: "And God,/ who could have shared what he knew with people who needed/ urgently to hear it, God kept a secret." The sequence "Unholy Sonnets" expands this protest, variously addressing God as "Gracious Lord," "First Letter of the Alphabet, Last Word,/ Mutual Satisfaction, Cash Award," and "O Big Idea." A man afflicted with trials like Job's asks why: "And God grumped from his rain cloud, `I can't say./ Just something about you pisses me off.'" Jarman positsand challengesa God remote from human experience in these poems, which, despite their rhymes and structures, ring a too discursive note and offer little sense of movement. (Jan.) FYI: Jarman co-edited Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (1996).
Library Journal
In his sixth collection, Jarman (The Reaper Essays, LJ 7/1/96), a preacher's son, continues his impressive probe into the meaning and pretenses of holiness. With a biblical cadence, he devotes carefully articulated attention to the life around him. His forte lies in his ability to cherish things as minuscule as the buttonholes on a child's dress. "You write about the life that's vividest./ And if that is your own, that is your subject," he says. But the vitality of these poems stems not from Jarman's interesting life but from a craft so honed that even needed raindrops can be viewed as "Magi, holy children,/ Entering the sand." Technique, unfortunately, gets the best of him in a series of 20 "Unholy Sonnets," perhaps intentionally trivial but nonetheless irritating. Elsewhere, Jarman handles formal poetry extremely well. "The Past from the Air," a seven-part sequence, sacrifices absolutely none of its intensity for rhyme. Ultimately, this volume is two books in one: in the first half, the caring adult writes in free-verse about his friends, wife, and children; in the second half, more formal poems recapture the child's eye-view. Twenty pages of weak poetry is barely noticed when surrounded by such magnificence.Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781885266415
  • Publisher: Story Line Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Pages: 100
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2003

    Brilliant Poet

    Mark Jarman refuses to enter the mainstream (if there is such a thing in poetry) and wants to create narrative poetry inside the confines of rigid structure. 'Ground Swell' is one of the finest contemporary poems by any poet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2000

    it's a nice little collection

    this collection is a nice little collection of poems, but outside of the 20 unholy sonnets, nothing great. still, it's a nice collection from a contemporary poet.

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