When we are asked to carry stories with us, fables and religion and family origins, we carry not just their words but their implications. Opening with a thoughtful exploration of Job, we witness the haunting impacts of “. . . the Devil asking / for permission to torment” and “God saying yes” on a vulnerable persona who ties these poems together. As a reader, the three acts serve as a pathway between childhood, where poems are playful including asking questions about sex in Sunday school, to the self doubt and self-harm of teenagehood, and ending with a young woman’s struggle with addiction.
In the background of this transformation, there is God and this story that haunts the beginning of each act, Job. God let him suffer. God lets our persona suffer. The commitment to the theme is astonishing; Jackson uses erasure of hymns, references to Jonah, and the anticipated language of sin. However, the redemption arc is not quite there. Jackson keeps us hungering for relief that only appears in the occasional rhetorical line or question, “Who am I /to go against God & the saints?”
I arrived at this book in need of fellowship about midway through this hellscape of a year. What a welcome 75 pages of commiseration. An open hand to anyone, regardless of religion, despite its theme because at its heart, it builds a story of abandonment, of melancholy, of needing someone to witness one’s pain.
Even the Saints Audition by Raych Jackson. Button Poetry, September 2019.
Reviewer bio: Sherrel McLafferty is a Pushcart nominated writer residing in Bowling Green, Ohio. For more information, visit her website at sherrelmclafferty.com or her Twitter @AwesomeSherrel.
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