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Man Overboard (review)

Cover of Man Overboard by David DennyMan Overboard: A Tale of Divine Compassion by David Denny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You have probably heard the story of Jonah, but never like David Denny tells it in Man Overboard: A Tale of Divine Compassion. In 24 poems capturing the voices of Jonah, God, sailors, wind, whale, people of Nineveh, their king, even the vine and the worm, Denny retells this familiar tale with imagination and economy that nonetheless holds a treasure chest of riches.

Denny’s use of natural, cultural, and historic details delights, even as it grounds his flights of fancy in reality:

… my wife
clicked about my burning ears like a locust.
…. I untied all 613 knots
in my tallit” – “Flight” p. 4.

Those familiar with the Bible will recognize echoes of favorite passages:

“Seeing the dry bones of
my chosen ones scattered
on the ground…” (“Arise and Go” p. 23)

brings to mind Ezekiel’s vision from Ezekiel 37.

God’s inquisition of Jonah after Jonah complains about His lack of judgment:

“Where were you
when the Tigris began to flow? Where were you
when the walls of Nineveh were hosted to the sky?” (“God’s Response to Jonah” p. 25)

reminds us of God’s questioning of Job in Job 38.

In other places Denny subtly draws our attention to Jonah as a type of Christ.
“Can a man be born twice” Jonah asks after being vomited by the fish (“A Good Question” p. 19), and we hear Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.

The story of “The Perfumer and His Wife,”

“… And when he told us
that like a fox without a den he had nowhere to lay
his head…” pp. 25-26

remind us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 8.

Most significant of the finds in this book for me, though, are Denny’s illustration of the subtitle: “A Tale of Divine Compassion.” Compassion oozes from these poems. God refers to Jonah as “my dove” (Jonah means dove), and speaks of “his lovely face” (“Arise and Go” p. 3).

The wind speaks of Jonah as “this little one” – “Stormspeak” p. 5.

God calls the great fish “lovely, sweet and langourous one” in “God Speaks to the Great Fish” p. 18.

To the Ninevites, God says:

“My heart delights in you, for you were lost and now
you are found…” – “Turning Point” p. 29.

As poems, the individual pieces are easy to understand even as they make good use of poetic devices like anaphora, paradox, onomatopoeia, personification, and surprising juxtapositions:

“I can’t go back now
My stomach can’t hold
that much crow” – “On a Hilltop Overlooking Nineveh” p. 41.

In Man Overboard, Denny opens our eyes to the compassionate song of redemption that plays a sweet counterpoint to Jonah’s blues of nationalistic pettiness. Thanks to this little volume, I don’t think I’ll ever read the book of Jonah in quite the same way again.

Thank you to David Denny and Lora Zill for the review copy of Man Overboard. A shorter version of this review first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Time of Singing.

View all my reviews

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Book Reviews, Religious

 

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Domino train (Limp – 4)

Posting my Limp sequence has been interrupted by a project that is now all but done. So it’s back to these poems about the mishap I had this spring.

If you’ve ever experienced one event, followed by another, and another, you’ll recognize the feeling of a domino train. This was my experience way back in early April this year. The episode below turned out to be nothing serious, but we do imagine the worst, don’t we!

row of fallen dominos

Photo from Microsoft Clipart.

Domino train

It was minus 15 with a windchill
I was planning another session
on the treadmill

the day I hurtled down
some stairs, broke something
and thought

What will happen next?
Hope this isn’t
only the first domino.

Surgery left me
with one leg shorter
than the other

Now doomed
to orthotics, a fat-soled shoe
or a forever limp

today I felt a bruise-like
pain, deep
in my calf.

Could it be DVT?
Will this be
the death of me?

© 2014 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in LIMP sequence, Personal

 

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October Fashion

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Morning wears crisp cotton and smoky tulle

October Fashion

Morning wears crisp cotton and smoky tulle
woven through with gold light.

North Shore mountains are sensibly dressed
in darkest denim, their tops
hidden, cozy under unrolling
bolts of blue- and grey-tinged fleece.

The park has thrown on a shawl
of embroidered leaves
in tangerine, scarlet, yellow
wine, olive.

Even dwarf cedar has accessorized
her sensible green bouclé
with red leaf appliqués
of delicate Japanese maple.

© 2004 Capper’s Magazine. Also published by Prairie Messenger in 2006

**************

This is a repost. I first posted “October Fashion”  here exactly five years ago today. I hope fall is treating you to her head-turning style wherever you are!

Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday hosted today by the lovely Michelle Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Nature, Poetry Friday, Re-post

 

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The sun dreams palely down

Sun dreams palely down - poem & photo by V. Nesdoly

Click on image to enlarge

This is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and I should probably be posting an overtly thankful poem. Let this be its substitute, for it sings the praises of some of the things for which I am most thankful: the ability to walk, beautiful places to walk, someone to walk with, fall colours, fall mists, the Creator who has designed the cycling of the seasons and this most gorgeous one.

Poetry Friday LogoThis poem is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Patricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Nature, Poetry Friday

 

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Two weeks after surgery (Limp – 3)

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Introducing my best friends during rehabilitation: cane, picker, long-handled sponge, shoehorn, sock dresser, and two-wheeled walker (and I thought only little old ladies used these–oh wait…)

Two weeks after surgery

(March 17, 2014)

Why does it hurt so far from the incision?
My muscles are a straitjacket of pain
to natural walking unseen, inner prison.
Will I ever walk easily again?

Deep in my hip a tremolo of weakness
that frightens me when stepping with a cane.
At physio a modicum of redress.
Back walker-creeping I feel old and lame.

Violet Nesdoly © 2014 (All rights reserved)

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This poem is the third in the series of poems I wrote about a mishap I had this spring. Click on the “LIMP sequence” category below to view all.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in LIMP sequence, Personal

 

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Membrane (Limp – 2)

Rainbow bubble on the beach

Membrane

“The membrane between the normal and unthinkable is exceedingly thin” – mother of an autistic child

fall, fracture
pops rainbow bubble
thin unseen
fragile skin
between normal everyday
and life ever changed

disappeared
flight 370
Oso Slide
membrane slashed
now mud, rubble, tears, searching
no going back

© 2014 by Violet Nesdoly (all rights reserved)

***************
Around the time I had my accident, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 went missing and the people of Oso, Washington suffered an unimaginable tragedy. Viewed from the perspective of those incidents, my mishap was peanuts. Still, all three contained elements that reminded me of what the mother of the autistic little girl my daughter used to babysit said the day she told her story to the women at our church–the poem’s epigraph.

This poem is the second in the LIMP poems series. Click on the “LIMP sequence” category below to view all.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Form poems, LIMP sequence, Personal, Shadorma

 

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Poem sequences (introducing LIMP)

In Diane Lockward’s June newsletter,* the Craft Tip article “Poetic Sequences: Practice Makes Potential”  by Oliver de la Paz tells of his visit to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain. On that visit he came across one room where the paintings, drawings, and studies  on the walls, as well as the  sketchbooks filling a table were all remarkably similar in texture and colour. That’s because they were all studies of the same subject—the painting Las Meninas by Velazquez.

La Paz likens these artist studies of Picasso’s to what poets do when they write sequences. He says, “By writing a series or sequence of poems on a singular subject, we can create a volume of individual poems that are at once independent and in dialogue with adjacent poems in the series or sequence. These are generative exercises—painting studies and sequential writing.”

Two advantages la Paz sees in writing sequences:
1. They allow for a close study of a subject from different angles and perspectives, at different times of day, in different seasons, through different moods etc. (depending, of course, on the subject).

2. One doesn’t have to “mine for” a different subject every day. He says, “I’ve found that working in sequences frees me from obsessing over a blank page. Psychologically, I’m prepared to work with content that has already been worked over.”

The power of sequences came to my attention even before I read the newsletter article when I judged a poetry contest a while ago. Though the entries had no names on them, I suspected several were by the same person because they were about the same subject. The subject was a certain creek. The first poem about the creek didn’t strike me as particularly strong. But as I read the second and third poems about the same location, I saw how these “studies” fortified and bolstered each other, the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.

I have found myself naturally circling back to some subjects in my own writing,  perhaps because they were new experiences for me and writing about them helped me understand them better. The death of my mother was one such. So was my broken hip this spring. Beginning in March, when I was newly recovering, to April’s poem-a-day challenge, and on, I wrote quite a few poems about my unaccustomed state.

The other day I collected them and found they were a sequence of sorts. I’m going to be sharing them here over the next little while (though not arranged in the order I wrote them).  I call them my LIMP sequence. As in the poems about the creek, when these LIMP poems appear with others of the same subject they seem more complete than they do as individual poems. So, welcome to my LIMP sequence! Below is the first one.

Runner with cane

My trusty cane

Limp

(After Genesis 32:24-32**)

Jacob wrestled with an angel
I fell down some stairs.
The surgeon plated, screwed it
but I was unawares
somehow he took a bit off
I now walk with a limp.
Does God bestow a blessing too
with this gait that’s gimp?

© 2014 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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*You do know about Diane Lockward’s excellent newsletter, don’t you? It comes out every month with a prompt, a craft tip, a writing-book tip and other goodies. If you don’t subscribe, you know you should. (You can subscribe in the right sidebar of her blog Blogalicious.)

**The Bible story is that one night Jacob wrestled with an angel, the angel injured Jacob’s hip, and Jacob wouldn’t let the heavenly being go until the angel blessed him. Jacob did get the blessing but along with it came that lifelong crippled hip.

By the way, I’m walking just fine these days, the cane long retired. Even the limp is growing less noticeable every day!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2014 in LIMP sequence, Personal, Religious

 

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