Theological Basics Cut to the Spiritual Bone
A poetry book review by Janice Wood
Head Full of Sun
by Carla Funk
A Nightwood Editions Paperback 2002, 112 pp, C$16.95, US$15.95
Canadian poet Carla Funk employs a language rich in spirit and imagery. Head Full of Sun, her second book of poetry, is a slim volume scented in ashes and beauty. Funk hangs the greater part of it, an alphabet of modern psalms, between "Darkness like Dresses," poems that translate the lives of biblical women into a down-to-earth-tongue and "Tongues of Men and Angels," a collection of apocalyptic impressions.
Funk grew up in the Vanderhoof area in interior British Columbia. Her first book of poems Blessing the Bones into Light was published in 1999 (Coteau). She currently teaches at the University of Victoria where she received her B.F.A. in writing and M.A. in English Literature.
Her convincing theological basics cut to the spiritual bone but her stories are contemporary. Her work employs the skills of an experienced writer. At several points comic relief is woven into the fabric of her poetry with an edge of astonishment :
"God is Dead” – Nietzsche
“Nietzsche is dead” – God
in “Psalm of Assumption”
Carla Funk is aggressive in her exploration of particular situations and her work often bleeds with the raw edge of simple truth.
no wedding song between these legs, no canopy or harp
hurled headlong, into space and back, into the broken bedrooms
in “Seventh Vial”
Head Full of Sun flows with confidence, knowing what direction it is leading. The work retains a sense of strength and purpose that is magnetic. She draws its structure from the poles of a living faith; Funk takes the reader with her on a journey from Genesis to her kitchen table. She is in control and she asks the questions.
How many times have I ached toward you?
in “Hosea’s Wife"
Whose nothing fills the broken bowl to overflow?
in “Psalm of Questions”
the immeasurable electricity of God
in “Psalm of Thirst”
and finally wrestles openly with her faith:
like a child down into a wishing pool you’re shoulder deep in the dark blood of night
in “Psalm of Deepest Night”
Funk is not afraid to name in simplest terms the deepest part of the heart, the deepest yearnings or the most fervent hopes of the believer. Occasionally her statements are blunt and jarring:
unknowable and unknown let me know you like a nail through your palm
take my pain like a rocket to your throne
let me find you compass to my wandering-answer to my fallen questions
in “Psalm of X”
Her poetry is shaped by and hauntingly charged with insight. She maintains a pattern of rich imagery using common place objects and emotions to cast shadows longer than the poems themselves. Her book is a delightful experience of modern Psalms that read like parables and in her own words the reader experiences a turning.
there is a turning…a turning of wound to splendor
in “ New Jerusalem”