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Reaching Forever is Philip C. Kolin's ninth collection of poems, the sixth to focus entirely on spiritual poetry. Like the poet's most recent book, Benedict's Daughter: Poems (2017), the poems in this new collection are anchored in Scripture. Organized according to major Christian topics--sheep, water, God's names, eschatology--Reaching Forever is ripe with scriptural parables, symbols and imagery, settings, allusions, and speakers ranging from God to biblical characters to contemporary figures. Consistent with the Poiema Series, these poems open the ""windows"" of faith. But they are not simple catechesis. Rather, they ""leap over the sills,"" to quote D. S. Martin, providing new ways of looking at Holy Writ and applying them to today's world--to see the sacred in the daily. Undeniably the most distinctive feature of Reaching Forever is the large number of poems set in the contemporary world, but contextualized through the Bible. For instance, a poem on the polyandrous Samaritan woman is paired with one about a homeless woman in a large city who also has had many husbands and children. A long litany poem about God's appearances in Scripture is followed by one on catadores (garbage pickers) who hear rumbling below the filth and wonder what God's voice is saying. A short poem on the riches of Cana seques to a spiritual lyric about monks who transform donors' pennies into bread for the poor. ""From Reaching Forever's wide-ranging collection of lyrics, midrash, and narratives--characters from the street, from the Bible, from nature--I choose to begin with Philip C. Kolin's figure of water, for I have long been a disciple of water's spiritual lessons. But his River and Gulf are wonderfully strange to me, transformed into keepers of sacred mysteries. The opening poem, 'Baptism, ' declares that the artist's 'canvas/must be submerged/to be seen, ' a paradox affirming the Creator's vision over what is 'real' in the human world. Later a powerful chiasm closes 'River Burial': 'But submerged sins keep coming back to shore;/the river returns the remains of the dead each night.' What is not of God and what has not been in right relation with God will not enjoy God's paradoxical gnosis. I am haunted by the word 'submerged, ' the 'dipping under' that represents hiddenness and revelation at once. If, as in 'Let Their Be Land, ' the tombstones cannot be read 'because no one can find them, ' how will we gain initiation into these mysteries? A gorgeous passage from 'Soft Sifting, ' late in the collection, portends: Our passing was meant to be a soft sifting like an ark with holes returning us to earth after each seeping rain. And in 'When God Arrives, ' we are told, 'you realize you do not/have to wear/your body anymore.' From its mysterious, paradoxical title to its unifying voice, Reaching Forever is a moving, expansive meditation on the 'already' as also the 'not yet.'"" --Martha Serpas, author of The Diener ""Even while writing within the tradition of the twentieth-century's Christ-haunted literature of the southern United States, Philip C. Kolin gives us poems that help us hear 'God's voices' in the twenty-first century. Flannery O'Connor's readers needed to be reminded that even escaped convicts could be instruments of grace. Our Age needs to be reminded that priests can be as well. Benedictine 'monks are God's bakers of grace' delivering loaves of bread to 'halfway/houses, shelters, nursing homes, jails.' Fr. Derivaux ministered to the imprisoned in Parchman Penitentiary, who wear 'striped habits / to sigh the name of Jesus.' A retired pastor from New Orleans' Church of the Holy Spirit 'looks the way/I think God would want to look' during the funeral of a friend. Yet Kolin is not sentimental in the least in his apocalyptic hopefulness. This volume is peppered like 'dark-roux gumbo' with wolves, scarecrows, serpent tattoos, black boys in the Ohio River, making us even more in awe of Kolin's faith that we could Reach, in the sense of 'arr
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