Review: Soul of the Earth
This beautiful collection of poetry centres on our earth as a living entity and on whose survival our own lives depend. Ramsay states in his introduction: ‘We are being asked, individually and collectively, to make an absolute basic spiritual choice for life.’ The spiritual choices in this collection are positive, life-affirming declarations of love for this planet from a variety of perspectives.
Each of the twenty-one contributors to this book of poetry has something vital to contribute to the concept of eco-spirituality; and the myriad of explorations on this theme will resonate with readers quietly contemplating this important question explored in the collection. It is difficult to single out individual poets / poems as the entire volume is soul food. Apologies to those poets not mentioned in this review – rest assured your poems too were appreciated.
So – what are these spiritual choices? Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s Misplaced Calibrators explores the disconnection between modern life and the things that really matter. The natural world in her observational poem is removed from the personas within it by the personas’ obliviousness to patterns and meanings of life:
Mum walks the springer spaniels while talking
On her mobile phone;
Ladybirds crawl away, bees watch in amazement.
The ladybirds flee; the bees are stunned. The loss of all the old wisdom of bee-keeping, part of the ancient knowledge that allowed us to survive as a species is wonderfully captured in this personification and their astonishment as they observe this human so indifferent to their presence. No telling the bees here.
The whole poem reverberates with old knowledge and the personifications used are more than a literary device. The question asked at the end: ‘What would they do if there was no moon or sun or seasons ever again?’ is the heart of this poem and the gentle meditative wisdom at its centre.
Jehanne Mehta’s Hymn to the Earth is a stunning panegyric reminiscent of classical works in praise of Gods and Goddesses. The earth is portrayed as a beautiful young woman who has many moods:
She is lovely in the springtime in her dress of gold and purple;
She is lovely in the summer in her robe of living green…
The poem invites its reader to walk the seasons and to appreciate our world as a living, breathing entity. It encourages the reader to think about the earth and what it means. But it does more than this. It involves the reader at a visceral level and makes them contemplate a relationship with the earth as they might contemplate a relationship with a lover. The power in this poem is palpable and it is perfect for immersion in spiritual practice, regardless of path.
Lynne Wycherley’s Substitute Sky picks up the same theme as Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s poem: the disconnect between the appearance of living and of life itself:
…we stare at screens,
A sly fluorescence, a not-quite sky…
Less laughter, less sun on our skins;
Our lives on hold, our children wired in.
The imagery of children entrapped by wires is a powerful punch to the gut and reminds the reader that a literal tying down of children to control them would – rightly – be viewed as child abuse, but our acceptance of a metaphorical tying of children by the unseen wires and cables of technology is an abuse we seem to accept without question. Such sad children are all too often the norm and it can sometimes seem they neither know nor care that they are in the thrall of machines.
The eco-spiritual question asked of the reader throughout the book is how we interact with our modern world and the technology within it – and how we teach our children that a machine is a good servant but a bad master. This is an important, pertinent and relevant question and the result of not addressing it is encapsulated in the final couplet of Wycherley’s poem:
Core addiction: captive eyes.
Outside the real world breathes, and dies.
These three poems are but a small taste of the treasures contained within this volume. Each of the poets brings their own interpretation to the question of eco-spirituality and each offers something of themselves and of importance to the reader.
Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Ed. Jay Ramsay, (England: Stroud, Awen Publishers, 2010.) £12.
More about the book here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/soul_of_the_earth.html