The Beautiful Not Yet: Poems, Essays and Lyrics

by Carrie Newcomer
Light Publishing. 2016

(The book is a companion piece for her recording of the same name reviewed here.)

Reviewed by Jean Rodenbough

The Beautiful Not Yet book coverUntil I was introduced to this version of Carrie Newcomer’s writings, I knew very little about her. The blessing for me came with this book, which drove me to YouTube to find her songs and the astounding commencement address she gave this past June at her alma mater, Goshen College. Her poems and lyrics, thoughtful essays, and the flowing spirit of her work are captivating.

Newcomer is a songwriter, recording artist, poet and lyricist, performer and educator. She has now produced 15 albums of music, which include her performances not only in this country but also in Europe, India, Kenya, and the Middle East. When not on tour, she and husband Robert Meitus live in a woodsy home near Bloomington, Indiana.

One of Newcomer’s amazing strengths is her use of metaphor and imagery that surprise us by their accuracy. A delightful example, in referring to the quality of kindness, are these lines: “It gives up its seat on the bus / And hums in the kitchen, / Washing dishes when nobody asked it to” (p. 52). Or this: “heavy as grief and weightless as smoke” (p. 15) from her poem “A Shovel Is a Prayer.”

She provides imaginative and lovely pieces, such as this, from “A Question is a Curious Animal.” The question is “An elegant doe that peers from the shadows, / A bird that calls and does not call again. . . . Riding for a while on a wolf’s winter back. . . . Resting like field mice, who sleep with no shame . . . And yet they come yowling, a stray cat at the window. / A dog that keeps nudging, eyes trained on the door” (pp. 10–11).

Her essays in this volume are thought provoking, the golden prize being her commencement address this past June at her alma mater. She offered three lessons for life: “be kind, be true, and pay attention.” In her essay “Miracle, Light and Considerable Magic” (p. 70), she refers to “the mysterious nature of the Sacred,” the Light that appears in daily moments. She finds the holy in the ordinary, like dishwater, frying eggs, a busy street, or familiar room; wherever she may find herself. In her essay, “Another Kind of Flying,” she locates her perspectives and priorities in the realm of gravity and morality, affirming that “our lives are created of suspended moments of glorious flight” (p. 79).

She notes “Lean in toward the Light. / Keep practicing resurrection” (p. 81). Her preface to her lyric about prayer states: “I believe that prayer is very personal and intimate. It happens in small, private moments, in songs and whispers, in humor, grace and the conversations that can only be had at the quiet end of the table” (p. 83).

Newcomer calls us in this collection to care, believe, and find meaning in what many of us overlook in our pursuit of daily commitments. “I am learning to walk with grace in the dark, / I am learning to trust and to lead with my heart” (p. 94). In “The Slender Thread,” she adds, “And home is still wherever you are, / Holding on to the slender thread” (p. 106). By her words, she has given us what is necessary to bring us home wherever we know it to be.

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© 2016 by Christian Feminism Today

Rev. Jean Rodenbough
Jean Rodenbough is a retired Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, a Benedictine Oblate with the Erie (PA) community, and an author of several books of poetry and prose. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.