Parables of the Kingdom

I spent this afternoon at the laundromat, reading Chris Anderson’s manuscript The Next Thing Always Belongs, which is coming out from Fairweather Books sometime later this year. Two of his poems have appeared in Rattle:  “Living the Chemical Life” was an honorable mention for the 2007 Rattle Poetry Prize, and “Reality Homes” is in this winter’s issue.

Anderson is also a Catholic deacon, and the book is broadly religious — though not conventionally so. I don’t know him well enough to be making generalizations, but he seems more honest about his faith than most, more driven to questioning rather than merely accepting the world we’ve been given.

As an atheist — too confident in my own sense of things to even call myself agnostic — it seems like this wouldn’t be my kind of book.  But it really is.  Anderson writes about the religious questions I’ve always been interested in: the paradoxes and impossibilities, the great mysteries of life.  It’s put me in an introspective mood, and made me think again that maybe we really are supposed to be religious creatures, even though religions themselves aren’t actually “true.”  And maybe that’s what draws us to poetry — it’s a place where we can explore these intangible truths without turning them into dogmas.  Poems can be true and not true at the same time — the lie doesn’t detract from the reality of the object.

Anyway, as displayed in “Living the Chemical Life,” Anderson is a master at swift transition and juxtaposition — he calls them “leaping” poems, and that’s a fitting description.  The result is a book that’s full of resonance and mystery.  Here’s an image I keep coming back to, from “Seven More Parables of the Kingdom” (first published in The Cresset):

The Kingdom of Heaven is like the room in your dream
and outside is a lake so blue and cold you know
something big is about to happen. Then you wake up
and have your coffee and don’t think about the dream again.

I probably should have saved this post for when the book actually comes out, but I know myself, and I know I’d probably forget.  So keep an eye out for it, probably in the fall, and I’ll try to post a reminder.  It’s a good one.

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