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This review is taken from PN Review 182, Volume 34 Number 6, July - August 2008.

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN MARK JARMAN, Epistles (Sarabande Books) $13.95

It's audacious, possibly even sacrilegious, for Mark Jarman to write a series of prose poems called Epistles as 'If I Were Paul', as the first epistle is titled. (That there are fourteen epistles from Paul the Apostle, while Jarman dares to write thirty, might raise an eyebrow in the Curia.) Yet Jarman brings this literary and spiritual project off to such a movingly artistic effect that any thought of an ex cathedra dismissal of his literary search is washed away by the scope and achievement of Epistles. Jarman's investment in his writing is such that in Epistles he abandons his long and dedicated adherence to formal verse and adopts the prose poem as the vessel with which to express his spiritual discontent.

Jarman's decision to skip over free verse for the prose poem may be the result of a small crisis of conscience, one that reveals his recognition of the difference between Paul's task and his own. Paul was laying down the law and creating the new church. He wrote as a formalist, in other words. Jarman, writing in a society in which the varieties of religious experience are immense, faces the opposite problem: for good or for ill, there are too many churches. Jarman isn't interested in building a new church, but rather in sweeping away the clutter to engage God's mystery. With this intent, it would be presumptuous for him to be a ...


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