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Review: The Geography of Prayer

February 26, 2018

In The Geography of Prayer (Skysong Press, 1999), Donna Farley presents a collection of poems that range from the invitingly accessible to the almost-esoteric, from the charmingly sentimental to the deeply pensive.  The nineteen works in this chapbook are divided into five sections centered around the vital components of prayer: meditation, confession, intercession, supplication, and praise. Each poem is well placed in an appropriate section.  The printing is simple yet attractive.  This slender volume has a number of truly excellent poems, and only very occasionally will the reader encounter anything like the sense of pretension that so often prevails in modern poetry today.


Although the majority of poems in this book would be best classified as free verse, the poet is not afraid to employ traditional forms (such as haiku) or to make use of rhyme, which she does in an unobtrusive way that enhances her poems.  It is rare to find well-crafted traditional poetry in today's world, but at least three such poems are included in The Geography of Prayer:  "Mary of Egypt," "Unseen Art"' and "Bell Song." 


I had the privilege of publishing “Mary of Egypt” in Issue 6 of Ancient Paths, and I am pleased to be able to share with you the poem below.


Mary of Egypt
by Donna Farley


The work on board was such as suited me,
For every novelty I had sucked out
Of Alexandria’s desiccated streets;
The lolling deck and hammocks left no drought
Of new and wicked fun. I loved the boys
The best of all, if love it were — at least,
To me their virgin selves were more than toys,
They were my heady wine, my constant feast.
I drained their innocence yet could not slake
The thirst that parched my soul. I disembarked
Still craving what I knew I could not take
Nor buy nor beg from paramours. The well
I found in desert land, the Love I sought,
Who stilled at last my thirsting with Himself.



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