In the Wild Places by Sarah Hoggatt
reviewed by Dr. Robert S. Henry
Often I find myself sitting in a local coffee house, enjoying the ambiance and taking in the wonder of a new book. It is not often, however, that I find myself pausing over a book in such a public setting, reflecting and sensing the tensions in my own life coming to the surface. With most books I find myself simply passing time, enjoying thoughts and words, but never really moving into the wilder places where God wants to open me up and meet me.
When I began reading the manuscript to Sarah Katreen Hoggatt’s latest poetry book, In the Wild Places, I was a bit dumbfounded. About every two or three poems, I found myself practically forced to halt briefly and gaze out the front window of the coffee shop. Life in those moments seemed to slow down. A rhythm was sensed. Sarah’s poetry had begun speaking to the wild places of my soul.
In one of these pauses between poems, I caught a glimpse of two silhouetted figures sitting in the window of a wine-tasting room across the street. Even though the sun glared brightly from the window, I could make out the couple sipping from their glasses, engaging in conversation, seeming to enjoy life to the fullest.
I lost myself for a moment and realized the full effect that Sarah’s poetry was having on me. In the Wild Places was working on me like a good glass of wine – the earthy tones, the inebriating metaphors, the slow pace of each sip being imbibed. Every word gave off an aroma that allured me down a path – sometimes into the very arms of God and at other times to dark questioning in the depth of my soul. This is no ordinary book of poems, but a cellar of poetic maturity, ready to tantalize our taste buds, give new flavor to our spiritual journey, and intoxicate us on the deeper meanings of life.
As a Quaker minister, I often incorporate Sarah’s poetry into sermons or use them as reflections for open worship. People in our meeting have shared with me how much Sarah’s words and thoughts mean to them, how they help make sense of their struggles and questioning minds. One of the poems that has meant much to me and our meeting is Forgiveness in the Daily where Sarah writes,
What if instead we continually
Washed the grit of the day away,
cleaning our hands
in the waters of imperfection,
knowing we have launched
boulders of our own
and chose instead
to live in the better truth
This exert is a perfect example of how Sarah’s thoughts question the reader and cause us to seek opportunities for reconciliation, seek a deeper meaning, and God’s abundant hope. Personally, I have discovered that each poem has a unique way of bestowing a special grace which my own words often cannot express.
If you are ready for a spiritual journey, if you need God to open you up and stir you a bit, if you need to be taught how to let go and cling to the God of hope and love, then In the Wild Places may just be the place to begin. I know I grabbed a glass, poured generously, and drank deeply – Won’t you join me?
To purchase a copy of In the Wild Places go to SpiritWaterPublications.com or QuakerBooks.org.
Dr. Robert S. Henry is the pastor of Silverton Friends Church in Silverton, Oregon.