Review – The Next Room (Verse)

The Next Room: Sharon Warden

Title: The Next Room
Author: Sharon Warden
Media: Bound Collection
Publisher: Jochebed Enterprises (48 pp.)
Date: 2005

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I’ve been acquainted with the American poet Sharon Warden for several years through the web. Whether or not this makes me more or less qualified to review her work, I’m not entirely certain.

Her collection of verse, The Next Room, has been sitting on my desk for weeks. I wanted to wait until the right time to enter into Warden’s world. And this morning, a sunny April day, proved to be that time.

Not to imply that the entire collection is bright and cheerful. It’s not. But Warden doesn’t dwell in the twilight of disappointment for too long. A ray of hope is discernible even in her more somber entries. Consider “Anathema A.M.”, a piece about a couple with child who can’t stand each others’ company any longer:

Take the child.
Take the child now.
The words are stuck
Deep in his gullet.

Even this stark scene closes with a hint of optimism, of new things to come:

Why lock the doors
When the windows stand wide open?

And if this isn’t enough to brighten things up, the next selection, “Childhood Memory” surely will. Here we find a charming retrospective on childhood play:

I was Athena in my mom’s nightgown,
a scarf tied crisscross across my chest,
standing erect and proud,
exacting homage from my kneeling worshippers.

As Sheena, queen of the jungle,
I swung from chair-tree to chair-tree…

From kitchen stories to bookstore follies, Warden’s innate sense of balance ensures that The Next Room doesn’t veer too far in any direction. Sprinkled with humor and insight, its shades are counterbalanced with sunshine, as found in “Prayer”:

Then we will rise
On the wings of the Dove
To follow You
Wherever You lead!

“Revolving Doors” displays a unique blend of form and content where Warden reveals true poetic genius. And while her devotional poems call to mind the majesty of the Old and New Testaments, The Next Room never comes off preachy; nor does it lean toward religious exclusivism, as evident in “Walking Simple”:

Pack your journal and a Bible
(or any faithbook of your choice)
together with a pen…

as you travel unencumbered,
walking simple.

Altogether, The Next Room is a frank and intimate portrayal of a seeker’s journey. Sometime observer, sometime comic and sometime critic, Warden never permits the ups and downs of life to obscure her devotional vision. Perhaps that’s why The Next Room isn’t just another collection of shallow contemporary verse, destined to fade into obscurity as the winds of literary fashion inevitably shift.

Witty, poignant and fresh, The Next Room is set in elegant Papyrus font, making it a “must have” for anyone who appreciates the beauty and power of the word.

—MC April 2005

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