Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: "Gethsemane" (R. Douglas Jacobs)

To undertake the writing of an epic poem in the tradition of Homer, Virgil, or Dante is one so daunting that most of us --- poets and prose writers alike --- won't even consider it. Simply too many components to consider: length, syllable count, stanzas, tone, symbolism, rhyme scheme, structure ... and good luck finding worthy subject matter for such an undertaking.

Which is what makes a beautifully composed modern epic poem both refreshing and age-old, life-giving and breathtaking.

Indeed, Gethsemane: An Epic Poem About Us, is a complex conundrum of opposites, unexpected juxtapositions: poignant and incisive, recognizable and utterly different, powerful and simple.

Poet R. Douglas Jacobs writes an eloquent, eye-opening allegory of the fall (or Fall, if you're of that particular ilk) of humankind, in three parts. The first part will be familiar to some readers, based on the traditional account of the fall of Adam and Eve given in the Hebrew Torah and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Meanwhile, the second and third parts part from that traditional scriptural account quite dramatically, revealing a depth of emotion and imagination not normally associated with this sort of spiritual subject.

Yet there is nothing traditional about Jacobs's poem.

The reverence and care with which he conveys the saga he has devised, combined with tender empathy and stunning creativity, come together to immerse the reader in the gravity and immensity of the message and the overarching themes of betrayal and redemption.

Similarly unexpected is the way the poem diverges from the scriptural narrative, seamlessly within the context of the work itself and yet very clearly demarcated from the original account, as its content attempts a fictitious means with which to reconcile Lucifer back into the heavenly fold. For that reason, and because of some graphic sexual content, staunch believers (Jewish or Christian alike) looking for a straightforward retelling of scripture will be surprised and perhaps disillusioned.

Reader expectations aside, though, the hours of labor and artistry --- evident in the style, the interlocked internal and end rhyme schemes, the painstaking attention to diction, the extensive breadth of vocabulary --- are astounding, and the result is a beautiful, shattering, epic take on one of the oldest accounts of humanity and redemption in existence.

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Author: R. Douglas Jacobs
Title: Gethsemane: An Epic Poem About Us
ISBN: 9781463525163
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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