The Third Renunciation: Poems by Matthew E. Henry
NYQ Books, June 2023
Heeding St. John Cassian’s call, the poems in Matthew E. Henry’s The Third Renunciation reject classic depictions of divinity and religious dogma to see God more fully. Each begins with a proposition (e.g. “Say God is the music we strain to hear,” “Say prayer is just a fire alarm,” “Say faith can become like lackluster sex,” “Say unarmed Black men herald His return”), or an explanation for a Biblical story (e.g. “maybe Jesus was having an off day,” “Say Jonah was right and grace is wasted,” “Say angels aren’t always trustworthy.”). Henry’s poetry offers answers to the myriad whys at the center of faith and doubt, gives voice to the notion that both singing and screaming are authentic responses to suffering, and argues that “grace is a Twinkie or a cockroach— / something that never goes bad, can survive / anything the cold world throws… / despite all our best efforts to quell it.”
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