Clothed in Language
(CISTERCIAN PUBLICATIONS, 160 PP, £15.99)
Tablet bookshop price £14.39 • Tel 020 7799 4064
In the Preface to her poem “Memorial”, the poet Alice Oswald explains that she is trying to capture the “enargeia” of The Iliad, the rhetorical quality for which the epic was praised by its ancient critics. “Enargeia” might be said to be the subject of this unusual book by Pauline Matarasso, poet, translator and scholar. “Enargeia”, Oswald says, means something like “bright unbearable reality. It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves”; it encompasses the brilliant visual quality of figurative language.
Originating as a spiritual journal, Matarasso’s work comes to the reader as a florilegium: reflections, sometimes as brief as a sentence, sometimes a few paragraphs, and occasionally in poems, are thematically arranged in five sections, with several subsections. Their subject is the Word made flesh, the unique definitive Word of the Father made visible, and ourselves, created through and in the image of the Word, “a narrative species”, “clothed in language”. Witty, epigrammatic, agile, the writing offers many profound insights and pleasures. It often models a creative assimilation of the Word that Pope Francis, in establishing the Sunday of the Word, and Benedict XVI in Verbum Domini (currently celebrated in the English and Welsh bishops’ initiative “The God who Speaks”) desire to promote.