From The Heart Of A Woman: Love Letters To My Lord, by Sylvia Hensel
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I was not quite prepared for the sort of book that this would be. The title of this book is not entirely accurate. The material of this book is not made up of love letters at all, but is rather instead made of love poems and what appear to be unintentional devotionals. Indeed, many of the love poems are somewhat erotic love poems of the sort that would be made by a romantic but frustrated adolescent. I am quite familiar with this sort of poetry–I wrote several volumes of it myself as a teenager, but it is certainly not the sort of poetry I expected to read from a woman writing about God. There are a lot of sappy love poems to God that make the rounds of Contemporary Christian radio, and certainly I have read plenty of Christian love poems before , but this book takes an angle I certainly found unexpected in a direction that, if not R-rated, was at least into the realms of PG-13 imagery, which I found to be quite a shock. I’m not sure if the quality of this poetry is worth the attention, but those who read this book are not likely to find it entirely forgettable only to the extent that they do find some of its directness rather bracing.
This book is of fairly average length (somewhere around 150 to 200 pages, although as I read it on my kindle I do not know its exact length in pages), but has no form of organization beyond the individual units, which all have titles that range from the banal clichè to the somewhat striking. Nor are the poems and devotional pieces separated. Each of the smaller works (and there are a lot of them, more than 100) have a title, the material of a page or two, and then usually some biblical quotations that are thematically related to the material. At times the author appears to be taking the tone of her poetry from the Song of Solomon, writing about God, or writing about God’s love for her from the perspective of God Himself, in the vein of that well-known poetic cycle . It is hard not to feel a little bit uncomfortable when she talks about the trysting bed she and God have, as the level of mysticism discussed in this book definitely enters into awkward territory and the author does not have the interest of writing a theological defense of her intensely sensual approach towards the scriptures.
In evaluating this book, it is important to seek to be as fair as possible. This is by no means a great book, or even a book I would recommend to most audiences, but neither it is a book that is entirely offensive or without value. As a somewhat foolishly brave writer myself, I respect anyone who is willing to pour out their heart onto pages and pages of writing to be subjected to the withering scorn and contempt and criticism of people like me. And to the author’s credit, the eroticism she writes with itself comes from the Bible, and her approach combines the passion of romantic love with the allegorical approach that many Jewish and Christian viewers of the Song of Solomon use to transfer the love from the physical to the spiritual plane. If this was a book of theology, I would be a bit more concerned about the potential for gnosticism in the author’s approach, but as love poetry this book comes off like a high school version of PM Dawn, infused with spiritual and romantic love that intermingle in the face of earnest and even somewhat naive lyricism. This is a book that could easily be written by a teenager, and was likely written by a somewhat overly romantic woman of middle age or even older, which makes the preciousness of the work even more adorable, even if it is not poetry that can be praised from a technical standpoint. Ultimately, this book is worthy of mixed appreciation, as its problems and its achievements are neatly balanced, and its material is certainly worthy of a more serious conversation than such verses usually receive.
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