Mary Dyer’s Hymn and other Quaker Poems

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The first (and for years only) mention I heard of Quakers was in elementary school history classes. They came up during the section on the American colonies—partly as a bit of flavor to show the different sorts of people who lived there. To tell the truth, we didn’t learn much: the Puritans weren’t fond of them, to say the least, and they were pacifists. Part of why we didn’t learn much was likely that we didn’t have time. We often didn’t even have time to get past World War II before the end of the year. Even so, I fell quietly in love with the Quakers and always wanted to know more about them.

Years later, Mary Dyer’s Hymn dropped into my inbox. I spent a whole day with it, and I was far from disappointed.

This short collection contains twenty-three poems, each lovingly crafted. Throughout, you can feel the affection Searl has for his spiritual forebears and even those who were not fascinated by the Quakers of old as I was will find themselves stirred. The poems are short—few are longer than a page—and simple, mostly composed of unrhyming quatrains. Their length makes them flow almost like a song, particularly the eponymous “Mary Dyer’s Hymn.” Others, such as “Isaac Penington’s Peace,” are much shorter, but no less powerful for their brevity. “Isaac Penington’s Peace” and “Passageways” both took my breath away with their skillful use of repetition, and the short space makes the repetition all the more powerful.

Searl’s skill shines throughout the collection. He never once attempts to show off, either, which, in my opinion, only makes the poems more powerful. I’ve read many collections where the poet attempts to demonstrate his skill, and while that can produce works of incredible beauty, just as often something fails and a poem comes across as pretentious or pointless. This collection never falls into that trap. The devotion isn’t to the reader or to the poet’s own ego. Instead, Searl devotes himself to the subjects of the poems, to Mary Dyer, and to every other martyr who died before their time for a faith that still lives today. It isn’t just a collection of poetry; it’s a love letter.

While I know people interested in history and poetry would enjoy the book, I don’t want to recommend it to a narrow group. I think just about anyone would enjoy it, and it might spark fresh appreciation for a group of people so often placed on the sidelines of history.

Reviewed By:

Author Stanford Searl
Star Count 5/5
Format eBook
Page Count 48 pages
Publisher The Poetry Box
Publish Date 2019-10-22
ISBN 9781948461368
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2019
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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