Prose poems, chants, litanies, simple songs, cadenced prayers, brief bursts of rhythmic observation, elegies to little moments that are not little at all in the least whatsoever-welcome to the melodic world of Brian Doyle's "proems," swirling with voices unreeling tales, souls telling stories, moments photographed with ink. Accessible, easy to read, blunt, brief, and sometimes unforgettable, "these are not poems," says the author, "but life set to the music of poetry."
In A Shimmer of Something, Brian Doyle's characteristic humor and sincerity combine to make this collection a delight to read. From his conviction that miracles breed ripples that do not cease, to his lack of faith about the life of an elderberry bush, to the amusing story of a friend's experience of driving the Dalai Lama to Seattle, to the humorous experience of his second confession, to an intimate story of love and loss, Doyle's lean stories of spiritual substance inspire, entertain, and captivate.
Brian Doyle (1957-2017) was the longtime editor of the University of Portland's award-winning Portland Magazine. His essays appeared in iHarper's, The Atlantic Monthly, U.S. Catholic, First Things, Christian Century, America, and The American Scholar. He was the author of two Liturgical Press books, A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance and The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be: Prose Prayers and Cheerful Chants against the Dark as well as a contributor to Give Us This Day.
Is this a book of poems, according to any definition of a poem? The definition is debatable. But I know, after reading this book, the sound of Doyle's voice-energetic, colloquial, questing, wittily quirky, casually very serious-is still with me. And I know that this book is full of what Auden in the foreword says poems should be full of: "birth, death, the Beatific Vision . . .the awards and miseries of desire, the unjust walking the earth and the just scratching miserably for food like hens...the gratifications and terrors of childhood, the impact of nature . . . ". Well, read all of Auden's quote at the beginning of this book and read the book. The cadence of Doyle's voice and his language linger, and that must mean that this book, A Shimmer of Something, is an impressive, impossible to ignore or forget, memorable treasure of a book. Poetry.
Pattiann Rogers, author of 11 books of poetry, most recently Holy Heathen Rapsody (Penguin, 2013)
Here we have essays that have passed through a shrinking machine, stories thick as bread, poems clean as mirrors; here we have Holy Mother facing off against All Saints; here kestrels and shrews and a hawk giving a ground squirrel a make-over; here we have diapers and dictators; here a missive from Lazarus; here elegies and jeremiads; here St. Francis meets Mel Brooks; here we have the Dalai Lama playing Name that Tune; here a concatenation of questions about the soul; here we have what I would do if I were pope; here free throws as worship, holding hands as prayer; here we have Brother Brian Doyling up the world for us yet again, awe and aha, as no one else can.
Lance Larsen, poet laureate of Utah
This collection of poems, chants, songs, prayers, and litanies is sure to entertain and inspire. Doyle's "proems" are filled with humorous and sincere observations from everyday life and unexpected surprises and stories along the way.
Doyle explores the crazy quagmire of parenting, probes the sensitive areas in friendship which we never speak aloud, roars at basketball, chortles at fun, remembers key detail, and weaves fascinating stories. He wonders why "the very best thing is the one thing that hurts the worst." How Catholic of him, in the best sense of the word, to see the world saturated by grace, with the divine always lurking around the next bend. Recognizing that mysterious presence, he praises it, not with the mind-deadening prose of encyclicals, but with the verve and arc and joy of the fast ball.
Kathy Coffey, author of When the Saints Came Marching In: Exploring North American Frontiers of Grace
A Shimmer of Something has been such a gift to me. Thank you for this book and for all the ways that your ministry of Word shimmers, echoes, and sings in the world."
The Rev. James P. Adams, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC