Surprising Details- “The Garden Room” by Joy Katz

I’ve had a theory for quite a while now that one’s home reflects the living done there. As a Christian, I believe that our actions and lives have spiritual effects beyond just ourselves. And I think it’s reflected in the spaces we spend the majority of our free time.
I think if we paid close-enough attention, we could feel peace, strife, love, boredom in the homes of people with whom we spend time.

Perhaps this is a bit too metaphysical for a Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Joy Katz’s chapbook, The Garden Room this morning.

The book is a series of 29 poems and one introductory poem that all have to do with interpretations of physical objects within a house. Poems include “Color of the sheets.”, “A desk.”, “A ceiling.”, and “The Unmade bed.”

Rich with metaphor and personification, these poems inspire me as a writer to view ordinary objects through a creative/unusual eye and revise…revise…revise until the language is absolute perfection.

One of my favorite poems is “Color of the walls.” and I love the imaginative personification that colors the last couple of stanzas. Here’s my favorite section:

“the teapot must remain serious, the table may not approach.
Archaic torso turns away into the corner.
The rugs occupy themselves with the story of their making,
Chairs, in quorum, decide upon the nearness of
important things,
like capital punishment. Good chairs.”

As one of the more whimsical portions of the chapbook, I love these lines ability to build a sort of rapport between the reader and the house, so then later on we can hear what the house has to teach us in poems like “The Made Bed.” that immediately follows:

“It makes us believe we are clean, too.
It breathes slowly, evenly, like Gandhi.
If this is true, then what kind of mind must I have?
Surely not disordered.”

I walk away from this chapbook amazed at the power of language to transform the way someone views ordinary common things by stepping away from the crutches of common metaphor and belief. That is something I would love to adopt as a skill into my own writing.

I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of this lovely book. It’s delightfully unpredictable, and its figurative language gets underneath your skin.

To peruse her lovely website, visit joykatz.com.

I also encourage you to spend some time thinking about how your life is influencing your context, positively and negatively. A little self-reflection never hurt a writer.

Keep pushing yourself to write surprisingly and thoughtfully about the often overlooked. It may lead to some incredible work.

May your words come smooth and Writer’s Block stay far away,
Abigail Joy

“Yeah, I read! I read the Bible.”

My father, who’s currently getting his PhD in English, used to be a full-time minister in an evangelical denomination of Christianity. He was on the board that was given the task to interview new ministers to determine ordination.

One question he learned early on to ask at those interviews was “What are you reading?”

This is a pretty typical question thrown around at cocktail parties and coffee shops. It’s a getting to know you question. Are you the sort of person who reads fantasy? Young Adult Lit? Whatever Oprah put on her list in 2006 that you just got around to reading? God forbid, something pretentious like poetry chapbooks? (Because there is no “I’m kidding” font, I would like to say that I’m kidding here.)

However, when my dad would ask these potential young pastors what they were reading, they would often flounder and then say, “Well, I read the Bible.”

 

Now, as a Christian, I am fully supportive of reading the Bible. Like, I think it’s vitally important.

But Christians shouldn’t just read the Bible. Because not reading widely not only makes you miss out as an individual, it makes you miss out as a Christian.

I read a fantastic article that was actually published a few years ago, but I stumbled upon it today while doing some research for a class. It was titled “Thou Shalt Read” and it was written by Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty University. (You can read the full article here at Relevant).

She basically lays out the different reasons why reading is important and vital for Christians. It seems like a simple idea, but I think it’s unfortunately a necessary thing for a lot of Christians to know.

The argument that I think was my favorite in her article was that reading non-Christian work helps us to “test” all things, and cling to good and resist evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

She uses an example of the first time she read Madame Bovary, a book that was banned in its day for being too racy, and how it helped her faith and marriage. She said she saw her own romanticism in Emma Bovary, and she said the novel opened her eyes to the poor results that could come from having unrealistic expectations about love and passion.

A “secular” work made her rethink something very integral to her personal character.

It helped her cling to good.

Reading is important. Reading makes us better, if we let it.

As a beginning writer who’s currently focused on one major writing project, I need inspiration wherever I can find it.

However, this article reminded me that reading isn’t just beneficial for me professionally.

It’s essential for me spiritually too.

 

So in the coming weeks as I read and blog, I’m going to be clinging to the good technically and artistically, as well as spiritually.

Because I want what I read to mean something to my life holistically. I want everything to be drawing me closer to the person I want to be and the Saviour I profess.

 

Keep reading, friends. Cling to good.

Abigail Joy