Special reading: Experience Cheryl Denise read her poetry on June 23, 2013, at the Detweiler Meetinghouse in Roseville, Ontario, Canada, click here for more.
Summary: The author’s blood pulses with excommunicated ancestors, passionate preachers, and rebellious farmers. These plainspoken, often humorous, poems journey through the angst of childhood and explore livestock sales, Mennonite martyrs, and West Virginia mine disasters. This collection ponders what’s sacred and what’s spectacle, confronts desires that will not shoo. Cheryl Denise’s work faces fear and insecurity, acknowledging the effort it takes to stay in this world. She hears Eve, who is saying to women everywhere, speak. And Cheryl does. Hear for yourself.
"In Cheryl Denise's second collection, readers will recognize some
delights from her previous book, I
Saw God Dancing: plain-spoken
narratives set in rural landscapes, charged with her own abandon and
exuberance. But here we also find frank meditations on violence and
life's many labors. Her lines have grown tighter, her voice deeper.
These are poems with meat on their bones."
Denise’s poems shine with the elemental power of blood, new-turned
earth, sex, and baptism. They wrestle with body and spirit, tradition
and desire, violence and work. That work includes nursing, writing,
farming, forgiving, being female, Mennonite, and married. The violence
comes when animals are slaughtered, mountains are blown up to get coal,
and a milkman gunman walks into an Amish school and opens fire. The
poet does not look away. She is here to understand as far as she can
and, beyond that, to bear witness. In "Mother from Paradise," Eve tells
her version of the Fall and its aftermath, ending with this command:
"Stop listening to God’s stubble-faced cronies/. . . who thrust that
apple between our lips/to shut us up.// Spit or swallow/ but speak,
dear daughter, speak." Read What’s
in the Blood and rejoice. Cheryl Denise is true to her
always-approachable cameraderie, Cheryl Denise’s lines bleed juice and
blood. She lets us look with demure erotic humor at what is or once was
next to our skin, from church to barnyard. When you quote pungent
snatches to friends you know aren’t quickly offended, they’ll enjoy
with you the sharp sounds of skates, or an auctioneer’s voice like
river water over stones. They’ll readily share the key frisson: we may
affectionately tweak, but not escape, what’s in the blood."
Market: The poetry of Cheryl Denise should appeal to anyone interested in plainspoken and often humorous poetry that explores the angst of childhood, the earthiness of livestock sales, the wonder of Mennonite martyrs, and the tragedy of West Virginia mine explosions.
Shelving: Poetry; Anabaptist-Mennonite literature; Personal experience; BISAC: Poetry; RTM: 640 Poetry.
The Author: Cheryl Denise grew up in Elmira, Ontario. She earned a nursing degree at Conestoga College in Guelph, Ontario. For three years she worked as a volunteer through the Mennonite Church as a public health nurse in La Jara, Colorado. Now she and her husband live in the intentional community of Shepherds Field in West Virginia. The community raises Jacob sheep and a small flock of chickens. They produce and sell lambs, yarn, and soft, beautiful wool blankets. Cheryl works as a nurse supervisor for in-home care services for elderly and disabled persons. Her poetry collection, I Saw God Dancing, was the winner of the 1998 West Virginia Writers Poetry Competition. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and publications including the anthologies Wild Sweet Notes: Fifty Years of West Virginia Poetry 1950-1999 (Publishers Place, Inc., 2000) and Coal: A Poetry Anthology (Blair Mountain Press, 2006).
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