Title: Lonely Road, Rescue and Home
Author: Jess Unoh
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Poetry in its very name (poiein: to make) implies creativity, making something out of nothing in order to give everything to the world.
So, at its essence, poetry promotes and pivots the materiality of language: the shape, sound and singular experience of words.
Poetry is thus the best vehicle to convey the musicality of spirituality through powerful Christian verse.
Jesse Unoh’s collection of poems, “Lonely Road, Rescue and Home: Craving a Poetic Path To Calvary”, is about having been lost and then finding one’s way to “reconciliation with God and restoration to the faith.”
In the first section of the book, Story of the Message and The Messenger, the poem “About the Author” has God as the persona:
“And I am He! Lord, Redeemer and Eternal King,
I for whom the lips of saints so love to sing;
I can be your Best Friend and your sweet Saviour:
Your years and labour that locusts ate, I can restore!”
The rhyme scheme is the couplet or rhymes that occur within line units of two.
The flow of this particular stanza is divided, ever so subtly, into two different degrees of rhyme.
In one, we have the full rhyme such as “King / Sing” and also slant-rhymes as in “Saviour”/ restore”.
Slant rhymes are tricky to pull off, Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Applicant” does so with words such “crutch” which part rhymes with “crotch,” “person” with “then,” and “salt” with “suit.”
Beyond such technicalities, Jesse’s words ring with the resounding power of God’s grace to create a linguistic experience whose end-rhymes fill out each sentence with the emphasis of an exclamation point, without even requiring one.
In the anthology’s second section, Sin and Salvation, there’s much to rejoice in as the poet celebrates the passion of the Lord. He also shows how far he has come by how far he had fallen:
“The landscape of my heart was black like ink,
A workshop where Satan loved to plot, plan and think;
I guzzled iniquity like a beloved bottle of prized drink
And swam so much in sin’s sea that I began to stink;
My conscience was bruised by guilt, confidence did shrink,
My belly was weighed down with water: I was all set to sink.”
This stanza, especially when spoken aloud, simply melodizes the poem’s motion.
Often, in poetry, there is the problem of using rhyme words which do not seem forced or contrived.
To do so, these words must appear completely authentic and applicable, and not just look like they were conjured out of a lyrical hat to fit the rhyme scheme the poem has chosen.
Jesse, the poet, achieves this difficult feat through the arrangement of words into smooth syntax on each line.
His diction also prepares us for the end rhyme, so it doesn’t spring out of nowhere and ambush the reader into appreciating the effort even as it is supposed to look effortless.
The poet relies a lot on couplets, but then switches gears a little in the poem, Faith Activates Forgiveness
“She had committed a silly sin early that morning.
She’d asked for mercy, bled buckets of contrite tears.
Yet she felt so unworthy, so full of dirt and smears
She believed she had no right to ask Him for anything.”
This time he hits us with a quatrain or ballad stanza to provide the reader with a short narrative that wouldn’t be as serviceable with a couplet.
What I like most about this anthology, however, is not how the poet skillfully creates relationships between the elements of each poem through poetic imagery found in simile, metaphor and personification.
Although its linguistic body is important, it is the spirit of praise and worship which jump out from every page to remind us of God’s love which really bring out the brilliance of this exquisite work of Christian poetry.