Crux by Jeremiah Webster (Unpublished, 2012. 57 pp)
Jeremiah Webster is currently an english professor at Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. He holds a PhD from The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, as well as a M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Eastern Washington University, and a M.I.T. from Whitworth University. His poetry has appeared in such publications as The Crab Creek Review, Dappled Things, REAL, and The North American Review. He lives in Kirkland, WA with his wife and children.
Speaking to the Soul
Poetry’s ultimate purpose is to speak through the heart to another’s soul. This simple statement is perhaps why I have such an incredibly hard time critiquing or reviewing poetry. A poem, I feel, when written correctly, connects both the author and reader in some sort of invisible way. Beyond that, evaluating poetry has to go beyond simple likability, as likability is fairly subjective. Instead poetry has to be defined as “good” by how it connects to everyday living, but more importantly how the words on the page connect to the soul.
When poet Jeremiah Webster asked me to review his first book of poetry, yet to be published, I was awestruck that such a wonderful poet would ask me into his world. I’ve found through the years in poems that I’ve been lucky enough to read that his poetry is that of a young man searching through this world only to find doom, despair, and small flecks of hope interspersed.
In his first book, Crux, Webster categorizes the poems into three themes:
1) The Tension of Language / Learning / Community / Modernity / Technology
2) The Tension of Humanity and the Natural World—Environment
3) The Tension of Faith / Death / Freedom / Autonomy / Legacy / Parenthood
The fact that he chooses to group the poems by aspects of tension says something in of itself. The young poet, as he looks to the world, notices tension in our feeble lives. Contained in Book I, a poem entitled “Poem Found Etched In Stone” displays this rather well.
Poem Found Etched In Stone
If you could see the morning gather the night
into slight graves behind the trees,
and taste the apple sweet
when swallowed, you would understand
why I did not go when they said,
“We have found happiness
in the city,” and sold all they had,
weeping like addicts
when urban machines became audible
enough to silence their songs.
Webster likes to dwell on the tension of modernity versus nature in many of his poems, eliciting vivid imagery with sentiments such as “when urban machines became audible enough to silence their songs.”
On a personal level, I resonate with much of Webster’s poetry as many of my life experiences today have at least a little bit in common with the stories he tells. One of my fondest memories is drinking beer with friends during a bitter Wisconsin winter. There was beauty to be had there, and Webster knows how to describe it.
After the six month chill of a fury
nipping the inside of fingers,
after snow the color of car exhaust,
the excess of ice,
after another winter in Wisconsin
we emerge sun blind and restless in remorseless wind.
It was not the snowmelt that scared us,
or the ambivalence of strangers after hibernation,
the ambient chant forever forever
that sent us indoors like a storm.
A New Generation
But, most of all what Webster does well is speak to a generation of jaded hipsters, unsatisfied with the answers that media and politics proclaim. Webster incites the hipster idols of beer and well-timed curse words, while juxtaposing a profound belief in a God who is above the recklessness and pain we see in today’s world. If poetry is indeed intended to speak to the soul, Webster’s poetry will speak well to this generation with all the snags they have to endure. His final poem, “Ilium” perhaps sums it up the best.
And though each generation
carries the promise of apocalypse
let us sing hymns
saints cannot teach,
stoke fire from fallen branches
a little while longer.
Webster’s first book of poems, Crux, reminds me of Eliot, Yeats, or even Levertov. Once his work is published, and I have no doubt it will be, we should all be so lucky as to read such well-crafted words of the soul.
Verdict: 5 out of 5