Look. A woman is writing on parchment, a scroll.*
We don't know her name. Her king, Solomon, has
died, and the whole country's going to hell under the
new king, Rehoboam. The year is 937 BCE. Banished
from the ring of political power, she grounds herself
by collecting the kingdom's ancient stories. Of the
four writers in Genesis, J is the one who delivers
the earthly creatures--Noah, Joseph, Jacob, Rachel,
et al--and, to paraphrase Pogo, they is us. Her cast
of characters includes the god Yahweh (or Jahweh)
who can appear in various guises. She's named J for
her intense interest in Yahweh's character.
About the Author
Sharon Chmielarz was born and raised in Mobridge, South Dakota, but has spent her adult life in Minnesota. Her book The Other Mozart, a biography in poetry, was made into an opera. Her collection Visibility: Ten Miles was a finalist for the 2015 Midwest Book Awards, and The Widow's House was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was named by Kirkus Reviews one of the best 100 books of 2016. Chmielarz's work has been a finalist in the National Poetry Series, and her poems have been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. They have been featured on American Life in Poetry, and individual poems have been translated into French and Polish. She's the recipient of a Jane Kenyon Award from The Water Stone Review. Her poems have been published in The Notre Dame Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, The Hudson Review, The North American Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Commonweal, Salmagundi, Margie, Salmagundi, The Seneca Review, Louisiana Literature, Ontario Review, CutBank, and in Nodin Press's 2015 poetry anthology.
"One of the great poets."--Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems; from tiger to prayer, a book of writing ideas....
"Poems about Yahweh are breath-taking!"--Wendy Herbert
"I can tell you one thing for sure: you haven't read a book of poems like this before. Not ever. If you think you can handle a rewriting of human history--not to speak of human spirituality-- from the J point of view, then welcome to the universe according to J. Is it a Biblical retelling? Yes. Is it an utterly contemporary view of 21st century human nature, godly nature, and nature itself? Yes. Serious? Yes, Funny? Oh, yes. And, by the way, God can be a whiner. Vengeful. In the book's last poem someone called "The Host" appears. He or she could be God, I suppose. But actually, the host, it seems to me, is Sharon Chmielarz and she ends her wild romp through history and religion like this:
'It is said, and much hoped to be true,
the host overlooked not one soul. Amen.'
And the book does feel this way: as if not one soul--and certainly not one reader--has been overlooked. Amen, indeed. And thank you, Sharon Chmielarz."-- Jim Moore
Underground, New and Selected Poems