In poems of depraved depth, cruel devotion, and terrible beauty, Gospels of Rage issues a challenge to infuse the human voice and spirit into this shameless age of fanaticism and post-nuclear barbarity. With acute curiosity, the poet F.F. White broke bread with terrorist sympathizers, sat vigil in mosques and fundamentalist compounds, lived homeless, slept in dens of criminal infamy, joined the army, and went to jail to discover and sometimes experience first-hand the lives immortalized by his poetry in Gospels of Rage Gospels of Rage illuminates the lives and deeds of those who fall prey to the prevailing culture of fanaticism in the world today. This is a book of their songs.
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Mr. White uses traditional forms of verse in many of his poems to frame dark and powerful meditations on modern and contemporary society. His verse also looks inward. It is very much a poetry of conscience and memory, a conscience fueled by a volatile nihilism, and a memory kept alive and vivid with anger, anguish, and the shocks afforded by violence, illness, and imprisonment, both metaphorical and actual. These are no “emotions recollected in tranquility.” If primitive man saw nature as a threatening chaos, Mr. White sees the modern, urban world as just as chaotic and threatening. “Ode to the Nuclear Bomb” uses the form of the Pindaric ode to explore how human nature and “advanced” technology fuse into a monstrous synergy, with an ineluctable apocalypse as its end. While the poem “Where Were You?” traces, with a terrible succinctness, a grim personal odyssey where the “you,” upon reflection, expands from – who? A father? A lover?—outward to a non-existent God. If the rhetoric in Mr. White’s verse seems overwrought, then there is a fittingness to it, a congruence with the over-amplification of the times, a rebellion against trendy, feel-good, over-personalized quietism, and an expression of the rage that lurks beneath the soma-like slickness of a corporatized America. For a reader like myself, habituated to the easy uplift of a Facebook culture, to the consignment of war and terrorism to the familiarity of sentiment and patriotism, there is an instinct to search for an affirmation of love and redemption in literature. What Mr. White offers instead is a brave and honest exploration of a world without such comfort. As he writes in “Regret”: “The crooked root of rage, / sown in the decrepit soil of youth, grows / deeper, gorged upon the shame I can’t assuage.” In the 1950s U.S. soldiers were place close to nuclear bomb detonations. When the bomb went off, they could see the bones in their hands and arms covering their faces. Such is the light shed by Mr. White’s verse.
Compelling and fascinating, F.F. White's work is a poignant reminder for people to look around and take notice. The poems reverberate in echoes of life. They range from intense and brilliant to creepy and profound. He forces his readers to realize the maladies we cause are still out there. I finally own a copy and am glad to add it to my collection of great poets. This is definitely a book I will read over-and-over again, for every reading produces more profoundness. Attention must be paid.