In Search of Better Stories

Two Books, Two Buds

These guys are true pals, their long history together is a wonderful example of how important friendship is to this whole human flourishing thing. Both books like their authors are very different from one another, and both aren’t necessarily my “cup of tea” when it comes to reading. But I’m happy to report that I enjoyed them both. See why below. 

Click Image above to get your copy
Click Image above to get your copy

The 35 poems in this work reveal a grounded, fleshly, palpable, slightly over-exposed snapshot of what it means to be human. Like the big man doing a cannonball at the pool, Lance’s poetry splashes all over you. His words touch all the parts of what it means to be alive. At the pool, not much gets covered up. The same is in this book; all our lumps and bumps are on display!

Lance’s poetry reveals our collective human condition and causes us to relate to it in ways that force the reader’s emotions to the surface. This is what poetry is supposed to do, and Lance Odegard does it as good or better than any other poet I have read.

I found myself laughing, tearing up, chuckling, and shaking my head in agreement. In all these poems, life’s unpredictable twists and turns emerge in ways that surprise and delight. Often using old photographs with his words, Lance makes the mundane aspects of our existence spring forward in previously unconsidered ways. Whether it’s an “existential olfactory crisis” coming from the smells that emerge from gas station bathrooms or the exhilarating feeling of back hair being caught by the wind, the result produces the same forward movement of emotion.

I had a hard time putting this book down. If Odegard picks up his pen again and his efforts materialize into another published work, I will be the first in line to purchase my copy of whatever’s next

Nelson displays an orgasmic-like giddiness towards wine. He is the eight-year-old at Christmas time, and wine is the biggest present under the tree with his name on it. This book is that boy ripping open the present and then running around the neighbourhood showing everyone the wonder and delight of such a fantastic gift.

Nelson’s enthusiasm is contagious. His writing style is disarming, casual, and humble. But a book about wine and spirituality for a guy like me? I knew this would be a stretch! I’m a non-wine-loving Philistine who is far more interested in history books and biographies than spirituality. But I like Nelson, and if he was going to all this trouble to write a book, then I was going to take the trouble to read it — I’m glad I did.

First, I learned a lot about wine. Nelson’s book exposed a gaping hole in general knowledge on the subject for me, but then, he filled me in — at least somewhat. I now know what a punch down is and how lemon, salt, and cheddar can advance your wine-imbibing experience. Granted, Nelson’s passion for the nectar of the gods isn’t sending me scurrying off to the liquor store to find some Pinot Noir and then ring up all my hockey buddies so we can cleanse our palates and sniff and swirl the good stuff taking care that we do so in a room properly illuminated with neutral lighting — but — He did manage to pique my interest which is saying something for a grouchy old barbarian like myself.

Secondly, I appreciated Nelson’s spiritual insights and how he masterfully weaved them into his love affair with wine. I connected with his comments on All-over-the-place-ness versus Some-where-ness. I have that same longing to belong, to have my feet planted somewhere. Perhaps someday I will. I was reminded of how comparison is the great killer of joy. I appreciated the high value that Nelson puts on cultivating friendships. I heartily agree with his insistence on being quiet. For me, the best soul medicine is to sometimes, stare out across the water in silence, taking care only to breathe. Finally, I like how Nelson pushes us away from a purely cognitive faith. Rather, “like good wine”, he says, “life in and with God is meant to be savoured, enjoyed, embodied, and experienced as good.” I’m not always so confident that those experiences with God are possible, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing they were.

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6 Responses

  1. As always, I appreciate your contemplations and musings. I haven’t read a good poetry book for a while.

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