This wonderful and thoughtful review of my new poetry collection, Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter, is from Philip Lee, and appeared on Goodreads:
This is a collection of mystical poems which might appeal to readers with an interest in the early Christian church, to lovers of conspiracy theories, or to anyone who delights in an arcane/’different’ view of the old, old story.
Maryam, the throwaway daughter of the collection’s title, is the lover of Esa – better known as Jesus, “the mirror of the [desert] lake”. Author Nancy Bevilaqua, who has done much research into Aramaic and ancient Greek names, comes up with the intriguing idea that Jesus is part oasis, part mirage. And it is Maryam, whom we might think of as Mary Magdalene, that after the crucifixion, is scorned by a woman-hating St Peter (here called Kefa), and makes her way to Epheseus. Other transformations include her brother, Lazaros (Lazarus), not being raised from the dead by Esa, but his “death [is revealed as] a turn of mind”. Also that Maryam has a daughter
Many of these pieces are difficult reading, but what’s exciting about them – apart from their skilful use of language – is the way the narrative builds up. After reading them once through, the pleasure will be to take them up again and see what more Ms Bevilaqua’s mystic imagination has made of the Apocrypha. She has both a remarkable feel for landscape and a scholar’s knowledge of the ancient Levantine. At times the verses are cruel and bloody,
“….Over our hill
nails are ripped from someone’s broken hands, lengths
of scarlet rope and snakes around his legs.”
at times visionary,
“There are other ways to reach me:
observe light’s ecstatic tricks
upon the landscape, note how stars
remove their shoes for you, that you know
what birds’ eyes mean, that you have already
recipes for music…”
Ms Bevilqua makes it clear in her introduction that these are not intended as religious poems. Indeed, I think it would be difficult to read them as such, not just for the way they challenge tenets of the Christian story, but because of their feminist/historicist perspective. As more documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls become available to lay readers, the “Gospel of the Throwaway Daughter” will take its place in a rounder vision of what really went on two thousand years ago.
Here’s a link to the book’s Goodreads page, where you can read additional reviews and go to Amazon if you’d like to buy it. (For the time being, Amazon has reduced the print edition even further than I had; it’s now only $4.60. The Kindle edition is $3.99, but I highly recommend the print version (if you buy the latter, you will also be able to get the ebook for free through the Kindle Matchbook deal.)