I used to have an unfortunate tendency make it about one-third (maybe halfway) through every poetry book I’d check out. I’d renew them again, perhaps twice, and then eventually give up the endeavor and burrow into a work by Dickens or Steinbeck. It wasn't not that I didn’t like poetry, I did, I really did. I even wrote it from time to time. A single, well-written poem was doable—I’d devour it, bask in it, and turn it over in my mind throughout the day like a pleasant reminisce. A collection of poems, however, made me feel outnumbered and overwhelmed, and my eyes would glaze over like a sorority girl being lectured on the laws of physics. I admit this to my embarrassment.
There has been a marvelous development since then, which is why I’m writing this.
A few years ago now, I met a woman named Shanti. She was a poet and easily one of the most delightful, intriguing women I’d ever met. I was just getting to know her when her new book, Sister Nun, came out. I missed her official book reading, but bought the book anyway to support her, knowing I would likely have to muddle the truth about having finished it when my same sorry pattern emerged.
When I got home, I settled in and opened to the first page, and something unexpected happened—I was drawn in, pulled into the story and held there hostage, hardly breathing as I turned the page, and the next page, and the next, feeling swells of emotion and empathy for Sister Nun as she escaped the convent, evolved, experimented, and dove into life with enviable boldness. The language was visceral and beautifully crafted, with gut-wrenching metaphors and captivating images. I couldn't stop reading, and before I knew it, there were no more pages to turn.
I closed the book and felt a glow that wasn’t there before, an aliveness and new dimension to my experience of life. I found myself discovering things I'd overlooked before—the variation in the landscape, the swirling pattern of steam from the kettle, the fact that his eyes were blue, not green.
I can now say I have read one poetry book cover-to-cover, though I may not attempt it again until Shanti Weiland comes out with her next book.
Until then, read Sister Nun. She'll have you seeing new colors.