Raised from Dust by Alison Stedman
Some fine, beautifully constructed poems which explore the human condition and could be easily included as reflective readings in services
Raised from Dust
By Alison Stedman
Onwards & Upwards
ISBN No: 978-1-911086-82-6
Reviewed By: Moira Kleissner
I love poetry, but so many modern Christian poems leave me cold. Probably due to the over-use of rhyme, too familiar analogies and hyper spiritualisation. However this collection is for the most part an exception.
Alison Stedman grew up in Kent, worked as a hospice nurse in London, ex-missionary nurse with The Leprosy Mission in Bhutan and then as a mum, living in Oldham before moving to the Isle of Man. She started writing poetry in her early 20s and her first collection was published in 1987. Her second volume, with a foreword by Princess Diana, followed in 1991. This collection is her third, with a foreword by Wendy Craig.
The slim volume is divided into two sections; the first Dust explores the human condition including poems about a homeless man, waiting in a supermarket queue, feeding seagulls, stormy washing day, depression, and bonfire night – ordinary everyday encounters. Her use of language and rhythm to paint pictures is very effective. I felt Checkout Call lost its poignancy with the inclusion of prayer at the end. Storm, another beautifully constructed poem, was again spoiled by an over spiritual ending.
The other poems in this section were beautifully written and constructed. There are some real gems. Some of my favourites include Change? about the homeless man with the ending of “no change” giving a sense of his hopelessness; I loved the use of rhythm to capture the excitement of the Isle of Man TT race in The Swarm – a very effective poem; Karigiri Sunset is a word painting that transported me right into the scene; Dead Ironic was a clever use of wordplay with a sting in the tail.
The second section, Raised, is more overtly Christian. Highly Favoured, gives a depiction of the birth of Jesus without the extraneous soppiness, magic and myth so often present in descriptions of the first Christmas. It would make an excellent addition to any Christmas service, bringing the jolt of reality to an over familiar scene. For God so loved the World was not over spiritual or twee, but a raw and jolting crucifixion scene– the kind of poem to be read well at a Good Friday service.
There is no doubt that Alison Stedman is a fine poet. The book makes a good read, painting word pictures for reflection. Some of the poems could be easily included as reflective readings in services and for this reason is worth purchasing.
Moira Kleissner is a member of Christchurch United Church, Llanederyn, Cardiff