Four Star Review: ‘A Rather Beguiling Find’


Here’s a new four-star review of Drunk Dialing the Divine from Shane on Goodreads:

A rather beguiling find, a book I sculpted and stained into a peculiar shape and grotty hue , by carrying everywhere. The poems are an interesting exploration of youthful ,wounded humaness and religious certainty/ uncertainity -which becomes fresh when filtered through the eyes of someone wilfully distinctive in her abrasive dialoguing and defense of seemly fading traditions, and thought patterns, all mingled with unresolved deep human aches.

I’m honored by your reflection, Shane. Thank you for carrying my words with you everywhere- it means a lot.

 

Want to read what he’s talking about? Catch your copy of Drunk Dialing the Divine today!

Drunk Dialing the Divine: An Analysis


Recently on Goodreads, a fan named Shane reached out to me via messaging to discuss Drunk Dialing the Divine. These kinds of things usually make me super anxious (did they like it? did they not like it? will I be able to answer the reader’s questions? will I be able to handle the reader’s questions?), but Shane gave me a gift in sending his own analysis of the title poem, ‘Drunk Dialing the Divine’, which had led him to order the collection. I have gotten his permission to share his analysis here, which he apologizes for being “impulsive and impassioned…soul bypassing head…[with a] heartfelt scruffy photoflash quality to it”.

 

 “Drunk Dialing the Divine” from the excerpt online…. the title reminded me a St John of the Cross line about God being a hidden wine cellar in the heart. Or in this case the tragic consequences of heart and/or world intoxicated by every thing else apart from God… the phone call echoes the alienation and dislocation of modern relationships with each other and God. The narrator (Mediator????) is interesting because she voices a Pauline concept that when we come face to face with the supreme holiness of God it will be “terrifying”. The sheer righteousness and ultimate goodness of God demands that even angels must avert their eyes and I could witter on about cheap grace and the cost of refusing grace for pages and the blasphemy of this world.
I like the ‘lasso’ line- its bold and dramatic, suggesting Christ’s suffering but is also about control,(you lasso animals) Man tries to domesticate God… but here is the thing, the last line “staving off prayer” also points to the fact the narrator/”mediator” is out of step with God. He/she’s ( I’m assuming its a woman) vision of God seems smug, shrill and narrow, he/she  has domesticated God. I scribbled down- can you Drunk Dial God? I mean how many sinners have in a moment of despair screamed out to God and found in the morning they didn’t have to apologize to God. That’s the radical vision of redemption right? Jesus is the “mediator” between God and man he came for sick not the well. The narrator seems dulled to the possibility of mercy in some subtle way . The poem had me thinking of the Pharisees concept of God and the publicans God “forgive me I’m a sinner”.
As we never know what the drunk is saying in the poem we can’t work out if he is at rock bottom and truly contrite( what has he done? what is there relationship??) or as implicit just a another repeat offender. The poem is wrestling with the difference between piety and love, mercy and justice. Oh I really, really liked the change in gear or flow just after ‘lasso’-‘rope’. It had the effect of looping the poem back on its self like a lasso . There was also some nice lyrical flashes contrasted with pungent spikiness.

 

 

I really enjoy when people respond to my work like this. Shane touched on a lot of nuances that I intentionally put into the poem as I was writing it, as well as pointing out possibilities in interpretation that I hadn’t even thought of yet- but can accept as being a completely valid, and strangely refreshing, reading.

I am extremely grateful for this first in-depth analysis of my own work, and look forward to more in the years to come! Have you read one of my works and wanted to tell me how it made you feel (whether for good or ill?) Always feel free to either comment or contact me via e-mail. I love having these kinds of discussions with my readers!

Award Announcement: Doxa


I was just informed via e-mail that my collection of five poems that was accepted into Doxa (Nebraska Christian College’s Undergraduate Literary Journal) just won the Doxa award for poetry!

I’m completely overwhelmed with joy at this recognition of my work in this publication that celebrates the glory of God, both through the hardest and the happiest times in our lives. I will work to continue to deserve this kind of honor in all my future works through the conscious reflection and active love that I attempt to put into all of my poems. I’ll let you all know when the copies are in-or feel free to get a subscription for yourself at their website. What a wonderful note to be ending my college career on!

Video Reading: Lord of the Dance


Fulfilling a request from Janet Kalmadge, here is a video reading of my poem ‘Lord of the Dance’, which was originally published in the March-April issue of devozine, the devotional magazine for teens. I know I was asked for a raw poem, but after mass this morning I have been filled with an overwhelming sense of joy that cannot be contained, and my current mood better fits this poem. I’ll be posting a new ‘Things that Keep Me Sane’ about my experience today, which will hopefully explain some things. In the meantime, enjoy a video reading of ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Acquisition Notice: devozine


The devotional magazine for teens, devozine, has acquired a second poem of mine. This one, titled ‘Are You Listening?’ will be published in the MA 2014 issue, under the Art of Listening theme. I’m so honored to be able to be a part of this ministry again!

Cool Things: Ebook Autographs


So I just signed up to be a part of this program called ‘Authograph’, which is this neat service where, for those of you who have electronic readers or prefer to keep your documents on your computer, you can request my digital autograph! You don’t need to have bought the ebook copy, so you can get one for fun or you can get one for your digital library even if you have a paperback version. The entire service is free, too, and you can use the site to get electronic autographs from all kinds of independent authors!

 

Upcoming Reading: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore


I just got booked for a reading at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado! If you are going to be in state, mark your calendars for May 30th from 7pm to 8pm- I’ll be signing books and reading from Drunk Dialing the Divine as well as recent journal publications. I would love to see all of your bright and shiny faces there!

Chaffey Review, Number Nine!


I bet you didn’t know I was such a rebel, did you? My poem, ‘300, was included in the ninth volume of the Chaffey Review, which had a theme of Innocence & Experience. Though the volume looks beautiful, and includes some pretty striking art, the volume was stricken from the shelves at the college it was printed at, due to the graphic nature of some of the content- which relates directly to the theme in sometimes heartbreaking, and other times darkly humorous, ways.

Now, I’m not one who likes to tout the fact that I’ve been a part of a project that is deemed necessary of censorship. As a writer, I am keenly aware of the need for tact and sensitivity when it comes to the world of art. However, there comes a time when there is a line drawn between simple sensibility, and a kind of blind fear. Some of the things in this issue of the Chaffey Review are not exactly my cup of tea, and some of it is right up my alley. But as I am aware of my own preferences, I am also aware and respectful of the preferences of others. The theme, Innocence and Experience, relates to many people in many other ways. Some of us have been able to make it to our college years with our innocence intact- I’ve seen many adults and some elders are well who, by some virtue of protection, keep it almost until death. Some consider ‘innocence lost’ to be the moment when they couldn’t trust their parents to tell the truth anymore after they found out that Santa wasn’t real. Some consider it to be the moment when they were abused, or the first time they smoked a cigarette.

For my part, my poem relates a moment when I was deeply involved in a theological discussion with a Jewish boy who I was attracted to, and who had thought an instant soul-mate of sorts- that is, until he brought out a line of cocaine and snorted it right in front of me. I have had many other ‘losses of innocence’ in my life since that moment, including many that were much more violent and much more privately traumatizing (some of which I’ve written, and others that I never will), but for me this was the defining moment of the loss of my ‘innocence’- the loss of my belief in a moral black and white, a loss of my veil of ignorance regarding those suffering from substance abuse, and the beginning of my struggle to truly understand what it meant to respect God’s wishes for my life, and to discern how to best love my neighbor in a way that only I could. For me, this loss of innocence was a huge stepping stone to where I am today- asking the hard questions that I had been ignoring, and truly becoming invested in the people around me and seeing where I could challenge my beliefs, instead of blindly protecting them.

For the record, this experience did not make me stop believing in God, or in the goodness of people. I also didn’t take any drugs myself- the boy put the coke away as quickly as he had brought it out, saving me from the awkwardness of having to refuse it.  It simply complicated my understanding of what I thought I already knew. It was an uncomfortable moment for me, to be sure- the fact that I’ve fixated on this moment, above many other moments, for nearly four-five years afterwards is testament to how much it really stuck to me, sometimes in ways that kept me up late at night, sick to my stomach.

For me, striking a volume like this from the shelves is a bit too much. That kind of censorship robs others who may never have the opporunities (or want to have the actual opportunity) to lose their innocence the way people like me have, or to gain the experience that we have through confusion and pain- but want to be able to empathize and open up their understanding in new ways. As I’ve seen reported, the volume was put back on the shelves with a disclaimer regarding the graphic content, which I think is appropriate. Some of the art in here shocked me as well, though I respect the experiences of others to realize that for them, it may be necessary expression of lived experience. I just skip over those pages, to be honest. No one can force me to see or listen to what I do not want to see or listen to.

So there’s the story about how a largely-religious poet came to be published in a censored literary magazine. I hope you all get the chance to read it sometime soon- I will probably be posting a video/audio recording of ‘300’ in the next couple days, if there is any interest in that.

Four Star Review of ‘Drunk Dialing’ by Robert Slaven


*Reposted from Amazon Reviews in full with permission from reviewer.

 

Before I begin I should say that as usual I received this book via a GoodReads drawing. Despite the kind consideration of receiving a free book my candid thoughts follow.
As further preamble it should be noted that if I’m not really in this book’s target demographic. As a book of Christian poetry it should have little appeal to me since I’m neither religious nor much of a fan of poetry. However, I pride myself on an almost self-destructive open-mindedness when it comes to GoodReads drawings. So, when flipping through the titles the thing that caught my eye and made me request a copy was the title. Just those four little words give one the feeling that the book has an edge to it, that it’s not just an empty, vapid book of praise but offers a bit more.
To my delight, the contents live up to the title. Koneval’s work not only celebrates the God she praises but also dares a bit to question him. Her work has a wonderful edginess and, to put it as simply is possible, is just great poetry. So many times in works of a religious bent, the art is lost under the religion. In this case the author starts out with solid, evocative images and uses them to make her point rather than trying to cram doctrine into free verse.
As illustration, I give you a small sample from page 35, a poem titled “God is a Nutter.” In it she paints us a vivid picture that is sure to hang about in my mind for a while:

Babies born with smiles that gleam
Like bullet casings
Pulling grenade pins
Like they were the strings on balloons

Innocence lost; how could a just and vigilant God let such things come to pass one might say?

In summary, I’m the last person one would expect to appreciate such a work but it’s rather irresistible. Not just a book of Poetry. Not just a Christian book. Surprisingly exceptional.