Genealogy Lesson for the Laity
September 29, 2020
In this radiant debut collection, Cathryn Shea constructs a world as delicate, colorful, and sharp as an autumn leaf yet as stable as the ancient tree it’s fallen from. Harnessing evocative imagery that illuminates the inherent spirituality within even the frailest human gestures, these poems reach across generations, genders, and cultures to give voice to the kind of unabashed gratitude that lights up our darkest edges.
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Simultaneously ethereal and grounded, mystical and rooted in simple human connections, Shea’s universe contains a “chaos of tears,” “lead-laden ponds,” and a clock’s minute hand “shaped like a thunderbolt” that somehow, almost magically, pull from these broken songs an enduring, celebratory refrain.
Celestial beings exist alongside grief-stricken daughters. Personal and cultural ancestries continue to shape the way we treat each other. Domesticity and political agendas drink from the same river. And the river is both polluted and continually replenishing itself.
Genealogy Lesson for the Laity is quietly vast and respectfully vocal. The contrasts within it are paper thin and razor sharp as a wasp’s wings, as bountiful yet self-contained as a meadow caught between mountains. These are spiritual songs of generational failures and persistent hope; the simple mysteries of loving other people; a call to witness; an appeal to ruminate; a plea for renewal; a tear; a tear that sanctifies everything it touches.