An [almost perfect] Imperfect Roundness
I have been hungry for this book for as long as I’ve known Melody Newey Johnson. We met virtually as bloggers on the Exponent listserv, where we discuss blog business, swap stories, and create surprisingly deep disembodied friendships. I still have imagery from her emails etched in my imagination: an angel flying above a car with a pregnant woman inside; Mozart playing during shoulder surgery; open mouthed laughter with an old new love; and water transformed into wine and hearts of stone into flesh.
Melody’s first book of poems, An Imperfect Roundness, published by BCC Press is available on Amazon and well worth the wait. The title comes from a poem of the same name, and describes a belly as a “moon full of baby, an imperfect roundness, heavy with hope.” These few lines capture much of what I love about her poetry: nature blended with motherhood blended with deity blended with ordinary. All of it pregnant with possibilities. It’s a compelling combination that she folds and morphs into extremely satisfying poetry. And the image above was drawn by Melody as an expression of that concept.
Because Melody draws on topics and objects that are part of our daily lives, it might be tempting to be fooled by their accessibility. But like a good parable or a poem of Emily Dickinson, the simplicity invites you in, and the depth keeps you returning for more. I was delighted to discover that Melody herself sees a kinship with Dickinson as I read “Sabbath-Keeping” which, like Dickinson’s “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” shares the belief that holiness is not relegated to a day of the week or a building. Melody’s version is about gardening on a Sunday, which she calls a “communion, meditation, reunion,” and asks the reader to “join me, bow your head and listen with me for God’s word in soil.” In her soil it’s easy to recall the faith of the mustard seed, the Tree of Life, grafting branches, holy land.
Reunion is a theme she traces throughout the book. Reunion with Mother/Father/Jesus, reunion with ancestors and the earth, and in “More Than This. And Less” she even shows a reunion with past and future versions of ourselves. But I think my favorite expression of this is in “Maybe This is Heaven,” which describes a literal high school reunion. Somehow she transforms what for most of us is one of the most awkward and disappointing affairs into a lifetime of shared memories and the embodiment of kindness.
Melody is a nurse and you can feel how comfortable she is using words to create flesh and corporeality: “You began as a curve, a comma in your mother’s womb.” This background in biology combined with her deep spirituality allows her to see the divinity in everything and everyone around her. She takes this divinity and wraps and shapes it into ordinary objects, an apple, a snail, sheets, and offers them to us as gifts. And as is the case with the best gifts, I am eager to share the joy I have received.