Review: Angels Everywhere

Angels Everywhere, Luci Shaw. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press/Iron Pen, 2022.

Summary: A collection of poems written during the first year of the pandemic, aware that even in light glancing through windows, we have intimations of “angels everywhere.”

For years, I’ve encountered single poems of Luci Shaw in various publications, always appreciating them but never moving from that to acquire a collection of her poetry. Now I wonder why I waited. I’m glad Luci Shaw has remained with us to give us this collection of poems written during the first year of the pandemic, and in her ninety-third year. References to the pandemic do arise, the air thickened with suspicion and doubt, where “Stay away!” is the command of friendship in this strangely altered world. Conscious of it or not, we are marked by these times.

Yet this is not the focus of attention of these poems but rather the “angels everywhere” in fleeting glimmers of light, in “vagrant clouds glistening.” While watching, in “Prey,” a finch being watched by her cat, who sees it as prey of blood, bone, and feather” she marks her own ravenous longing for closeness with God, to be filled “with body and blood.”

She marks the changing seasons in her poems, paralleling the changing seasons of our lives. In “Leaving” she connects the losses of foliage to loss in one’s life, concluding, “I yearn to learn the discipline of seeing something treasured,/ watching it pass, then letting it go. Letting it go.”

There are other times when the external encourages the inward look. In “Moonrise,” the sliver of moon low in the sky causes her to ask”

And when I reflect back
just the bright half of me,
how will you guess
my shadow side?

The language is often luminous, as when she speaks, in “Santa Fe Evening” of watching “a mountain/swallow the sun like a peach –/a hammered copper disc so large, so close/I felt warmed, as if a mother’s hand/touched the skin of my face.” She is reminded of the providential regularity of sunrise amid the world’s turmoil giving hope that “we too will arise from our shadowed sleep.”

Some of her poems reflect on the writing process itself. In both “In the Beginning, A Word” and “Some Poems Seem” (on facing pages), she speaks of her love of words: “This, then, is how/it seems to work, and why I love the words/that come to mind and write them down/for you, telling the curious way we live/our lives and write them into books.”

She writes of people in her life who have passed, and a new grandchild. She describes a tomato garden, forest grasses, the things she sees on walks and drives, reminding me here of Mary Oliver, seeing the transcendent in the ordinary.

In one of the latter poems, “Shaker Chair,” she observes the shape of a Shaker chair “shaped for a leanness, a cleanness of body and spirit” concluding that it is “An invitation for Christ to come sit on it, or an angel, as Merton suggested.”

She urges reading these poems aloud, always good practice, and certainly with her work. She uses wonderful words like “plangent” and “frisson” as well as the phrasing just noted, “a leanness, a cleanness.”

Many of us lived circumscribed lives during the pandemic. Shaw writes in an introduction of how the ordinary may speak as one of “God’s messengers.” Cut off from many other things, did we heed the messages in the changing seasons, watching winter give way to spring, observing the phases of the moon, the response of parched summer lawns to a long soaking rain, the fleeting glory of autumn leaves? I didn’t need to leave my neighborhood to hear the messages these bore. Now, on my walks, perhaps I will be more aware, attuned to the “angels everywhere.”


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

One thought on “Review: Angels Everywhere

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: March 2023 | Bob on Books

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