I’m not a big fan of poetry. I feel I should state that right up front. I’ll read it when it’s in front of me. I’ll appreciate bits and pieces scattered throughout other works. Now and again I’ll come across something that touches me enough that I’ll jot down a name, intending to seek out more, though often the intention gets lost in the ever growing list of things I want to read. I find poetry a bit daunting, really. I know there’s “supposed to be” these various types and forms which I know nothing about. Perhaps I’ve had just enough schooling with regards to poetry to know I don’t know enough to “properly” appreciate it (which strikes me as ridiculous, even as I type it.) Whatever it is, in my mind poetry has become something I cannot fully enjoy or appreciate without knowing more about the mechanics of poetry, which is a bit like saying that one cannot appreciate art without having an art degree — which is nonsense. Knowledge of the mechanics, of the technical side (of art, of poetry, of writing in general) can and will deepen one’s appreciation, but surely one can have no education at all, look at a painting, and say, “Ooh, I really like this.”
Invocations and Other Love Songs was the first book of poetry I’ve sat down to read since I can’t remember when. The poems contained within span two years, and are an intimate glimpse of one woman’s process of walking this world with her love for the gods leading the way. They are, at times, painfully personal, and I feel like a peeping tom, peering through a window at some private moment that’s not my business — except not only is there no curtain over the glass, but there’s no window, and she’s instead standing in the middle of the street, saying, “Here, here, see this.” If there could be said to be a theme, I’d say that this volume matches the title very well. Every poem contains openness, a dedication if you will, to See and be seen. Divided into sections honoring Hermes, Apollon, Loki, the Orishas, and the Goddess, Invocations and Other Love Songs may be a bit of a nightmare for those who disapprove of such beings rubbing elbows so closely. For those of us who are not bothered by such, Invocations is a beautiful reminder that, when our lives are touched by the Divine — it is beautiful, it is breathtaking, it is frequently uncomfortable, but it is almost always worth it, if we’re willing to go where They lead. Berger’s love, for the gods, for the process, for writing, comes through with each poem. Perhaps the best praise I can offer is this: reading her poetry has me rethinking poetry in general, and my bias against it. It has me wanting to make room on my reading shelf, to explore and enjoy more poetry than I previously have. It has me wanting to make time for poetry, and to find more poets whose work I enjoy.
The only criticism I have regarding this book — and it is not a reflection on her writing at all — is the typeface. The titles are set in Mistral, which is a font I adore, and the body of the poems are in Dakota, which is made to look a bit like handwriting. They are both lovely fonts — but for reading text in a book, Dakota can be a bit hard on the eyes. I’ll admit to having a preference for Serif fonts as well as an aversion to “fancy” fonts for both title and text body. I’m old fashioned, I suppose. I want boring, easy to read fonts for what I’m reading; I don’t want their shapes distracting me from the words I’m trying to read.
That aside, Invocations and Other Love Songs is a wonderful volume of poetry, and I highly recommend Christine’s work to anyone who enjoys pagan poetry.
[Jolene Dawe is a polytheist devoted to Poseidon and Odin. She is the author of Treasures from the Deep, a collection of Poseidon’s myths retold, and The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her partner, a small horde of cats, one small dog, and three spunky spinning wheels. You can find her online at http://thesaturatedpage.wordpress.com%5D.]