Small Altars Where the Sun Performs Morning Service
By John Thomas Dodds
Reviewed by Margaret Van Every for the December Edition of OJO DEL LAGO
John Thomas Dodds’s most recent book is a collection of paeans to a woman of flesh who embodies for the poet a holy spirit that connects him to himself and to the universe. These 45 poems are exuberant tributes to woman in the abstract, each a celebration of transformation from the ordinary to the sublime through love. As his title says, “together our bodies/are small altars” where a daily morning service is performed. Through these poems the reader experiences the exultation of the poet’s union with the divine.
Dodds designed the evocative cover himself, using a photo of Lake Chapala at sunrise. The scene is bathed in the rosy glow that happens briefly every morning to remind mortals of the sacredness of ritual renewal. With drooping wings, a bird is suspended in the golden sky with the wing tips down. Like the bird, we are caught in the ambiguity of existence, rising and falling, sometimes indistinguishably.
The language of Dodds’ poems is natural and spontaneous, the simple words of everyday parlance. Artless expression is not automatic, however, and is far more difficult to achieve than it appears. Dodds is a poet who does it well and is able at the same time to preserve the rhythm. Some of the poems hint of the concise perfection of short form Oriental poetry. In this volume, the first line, always italicized, constitutes each poem’s title.
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