Review: FROM THIS FAR TIME, by Jo VonBargen
May 9, 2012
FROM THIS FAR TIME chronicles the human saga from time immemorial to the present and hints at things yet to come. VonBargen’s poetry is reminiscent of the writings of the famous French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin when it speaks of the processes that have brought the human race to this point in its history.
But, her book is far more than a poetic treatment of evolutionary theory. It is an expose of the human soul, that ephemeral critter capable of such love and cruelty. It is a book about the yearning of the heart for justice and fairness and its ages-long acceptance of so little less.
Take this section from “The Legend,” a chapter about the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico. “This is the story./ The sin of a nation is a/ Moaning of wind/ In bloodrock canyon-/In the neck of a bottle-/ In the heart of a placeless/ Soul. But Earth beats a pulse yet/strong/ And unstuttered,/ The unavenged rage of/ Wetted-down wings snuffed/ To the ether for no / Good reason save covetous/ want. Covetous want!/ I saw blood on the hands/ Of our Fathers and/ Fathers./ They, who passed down/ The Fool’s-Golden rule!/ Something was lost in/ omission, / Translation./ Yet, something was found.”
This poetry grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. It sweeps nothing under the rug, pulls the skeletons out of the closet, parades them in the polite parlor. It does not shy away from atrocities. “A counterfeit savior, glib of /tongue-/What witness would tell it?/ Baked in ovens,/ Six million!/… Where was an obdurate,/slow/Jehovah/ when those bone-thin/ Corpses piled up/Into one great global/ Putrefaction?”
VonBargen’s writing is full of religious symbolism, but not a white blue-eyed Jesus. For her, the power of such symbols lies in their misuse on the one hand and their other-worldly essence on the other. She does not trivialize Golgotha.
But I would do Jo VonBargen a great disservice if I left the impression that FROM THIS FAR TIME is a bowl of despair served cold. Rather, the words she has strung together vibrate with a power to transform the reader, to urge her to reach deep within herself and find the best parts of her spirit.
FROM THIS FAR TIME is a remarkable read, a tower rising out of the plains to guide soul-weary travelers home.