Man Overboard (review)

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Cover of Man Overboard by David DennyMan Overboard: A Tale of Divine Compassion by David Denny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You have probably heard the story of Jonah, but never like David Denny tells it in Man Overboard: A Tale of Divine Compassion. In 24 poems capturing the voices of Jonah, God, sailors, wind, whale, people of Nineveh, their king, even the vine and the worm, Denny retells this familiar tale with imagination and economy that nonetheless holds a treasure chest of riches.

Denny’s use of natural, cultural, and historic details delights, even as it grounds his flights of fancy in reality:

… my wife
clicked about my burning ears like a locust.
…. I untied all 613 knots
in my tallit” – “Flight” p. 4.

Those familiar with the Bible will recognize echoes of favorite passages:

“Seeing the dry bones of
my chosen ones scattered
on the ground…” (“Arise and Go” p. 23)

brings to mind Ezekiel’s vision from Ezekiel 37.

God’s inquisition of Jonah after Jonah complains about His lack of judgment:

“Where were you
when the Tigris began to flow? Where were you
when the walls of Nineveh were hosted to the sky?” (“God’s Response to Jonah” p. 25)

reminds us of God’s questioning of Job in Job 38.

In other places Denny subtly draws our attention to Jonah as a type of Christ.
“Can a man be born twice” Jonah asks after being vomited by the fish (“A Good Question” p. 19), and we hear Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.

The story of “The Perfumer and His Wife,”

“… And when he told us
that like a fox without a den he had nowhere to lay
his head…” pp. 25-26

remind us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 8.

Most significant of the finds in this book for me, though, are Denny’s illustration of the subtitle: “A Tale of Divine Compassion.” Compassion oozes from these poems. God refers to Jonah as “my dove” (Jonah means dove), and speaks of “his lovely face” (“Arise and Go” p. 3).

The wind speaks of Jonah as “this little one” – “Stormspeak” p. 5.

God calls the great fish “lovely, sweet and langourous one” in “God Speaks to the Great Fish” p. 18.

To the Ninevites, God says:

“My heart delights in you, for you were lost and now
you are found…” – “Turning Point” p. 29.

As poems, the individual pieces are easy to understand even as they make good use of poetic devices like anaphora, paradox, onomatopoeia, personification, and surprising juxtapositions:

“I can’t go back now
My stomach can’t hold
that much crow” – “On a Hilltop Overlooking Nineveh” p. 41.

In Man Overboard, Denny opens our eyes to the compassionate song of redemption that plays a sweet counterpoint to Jonah’s blues of nationalistic pettiness. Thanks to this little volume, I don’t think I’ll ever read the book of Jonah in quite the same way again.

Thank you to David Denny and Lora Zill for the review copy of Man Overboard. A shorter version of this review first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Time of Singing.

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And we’re off! (#ICWriters)

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2014 is off to a great start!

"Yes" written on lined paper

Writing has changed a lot since I sold my first article in 1997. Then it was a solo business for me. I was in the middle of taking a writing course and submitted those first pieces to see if I actually had what it took. It was all done by surface mail. (I sound like a real old-timer!)

Last year, after spending the end of 2012 marketing my novel, I decided to get back into freelance writing. Nowadays, the temptation for me is to write a lot but for free. Many publications have folded, and there are far fewer paying markets than there ever were. For the first quarter of the year, my goal was to change bad habits and submit one article per week to a paying market. Now my humble ships are coming in!

At the end of 2013 I received my contributor’s copy of  the January/February 2014 issue of Pockets. It had my article on Jean Vanier in it. I’m always thrilled to be published in that beautiful children’s magazine!

January 2nd brought word of contest results for the Time of Singing Winter Contest (8-line rhyming poems). My poem “Ananias explains the situation to Sapphira” won—first place! Pinch me!!

Yesterday  the latest Faith Today went online. My review of Janet Sketchley’s Heaven’s Prey is in it.  I was so pleased to get a chance to review this suspense-loaded novel authored by my friend.

Also yesterday my contributor’s copy of Cadet Quest (February 2014 issue) arrived with a word-search puzzle I put together for their  “Let’s Get Fit” theme.

It’s all fruit of work I did months to a year ago. Sometimes it seems like you labour and labour and nothing comes of it. And then the results return in a wonderful week or two of deluge! It’s not the instant gratification of fifteen LIKES on a Facebook update. But it has more impact on a resume!

April prompt: water

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The Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Our writing prompt this month is WATER.

April, on the Canadian prairies where I grew up, was a month of water. The precipitation that came down as snow all winter gradually melted in the warm sun of April’s  lengthening days and filled the days with spring’s background music of drip, trickle, and croaking frogs. Judging from all the snow I’ve seen in photos of Saskatchewan recently, this year those songs will have many stanzas.

Water is a main feature in the Bible too.

  • One of the first stories in Genesis is a story of water (Genesis 7).
  •  Jesus had a lot to do with water. He was baptized in water and His first miracle was turning water into wine, He helped His disciples fish, calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and near the end of His life washed His disciples’ feet. In His teaching He used water as a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction when He talked to the woman at the Samaritan well (John 4:1-26), and invited all the thirsty to come to Him for living water (John 7:37-39).
  • Water is also a prominent feature in dreams (e.g. Joseph and Pharaoh’s dream – Exodus 41) visions (Ezekiel’s vision of the river in the temple – Ezekiel 47:1-12 ) and prophecies (the crystal river in the New Jerusalem – Revelation 22:1-2).

Here is your water writing challenge for April:

For fiction writers:

Write a story where water is an important part of the setting.

For non-fiction writers:

Work one of your memories or a characteristic of water into a devotional.
or
Write a how-to piece that involves water.

For poets:

Write about any aspect of water and layer into your poem the metaphorical or spiritual meaning of water suggested by your subject.

An opportunity to submit your poem:

The poetry journal Time of Singing is running a spring contest on the theme of “Wind and Water.” You might want to submit your March poem on wind, or your April poem on water. Contest entries must be postmarked May 15, 2013. Details of how to enter HERE.