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Sister Wendy’s lovely ‘Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems’ – book review

Speaking to the Heart: 100 Favorite Poems by Wendy Beckett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sister Wendy was an erudite and delightful cloistered art historian in a veil who knew that Poetry is a song of the heart from a mind spring of sense and sensitivity, not to be burdened with a weight of reason. The result is a lovely apple-picking of her favorite poems in her pretty poetic orchard to share the beauty with the universal reader whose heart intoxicated and the spirit exalted in ethereal ecstasy. Her selection of poems manifests the finer tissues of her heart and the higher octaves of her spirit. Reading the entire book creates empathy for the sensitive minds of the poets so physically poignant that the reader senses the pain and the longing of the poets vis-à-vis.

Sister Wendy, also known for her long-time BBC documentaries on the history of art, speaks her heart through the poems of her choice colored in the spectrums of human emotions, ranging from longing to wonder, hope to sorrow, and anger to love. Even the subject of Faith becomes alluring due to Sister Wendy’s magical transformation of the matter into fairy-like ideation with sensually diaphanous wings as pagan as could be. Her interpretations speak on the poet’s behalf as an individual soul at the utter solitude, not as a literary artificer whose achievement merits the name in the canon of literature. In doing so, Sister Wendy brings out the poet’s true sentiment under a forage of words and shines her mystic perspectives on the poet’s reading in a splendid but straightforward way.

The reader will find famous, not-so-famous, and obscure poems from Elizabethan England to 20th century America in this lovely book. Sister Wendy is both discriminating, and non-discriminating in the human emotions poured into the world of poetry. She is discriminating in the sense that she has a “Third Eye” that sees the poet’s soul and understands the sentiment nuanced in the poem, including wrath and despair, poisons to the mind. Non-discriminating in a way, she values poems spirited in the heroic but straightforward endurance of existential malaise in everyday life written in the plebian language. From Shakespeare’s ‘Fidele’ to John Harris’s ‘Feral’ and many more, the reader will feel ennobled to walk the gardens of the poetic Elysium with Sister Wendy introducing you to each of the poets’ greeting and smiling.



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