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Following the Light
7.1 x 4.1 x 0.6 inches
Kevin Bezner lost his faith in the desert of secularism on a slow journey away from the Catholic Church. By the end of high school and twelve years of Catholic schooling, he had abandoned the faith. Later, he put on the cloaks of agnosticism and then atheism as a newspaper reporter and college professor. He was drowning in sin before he was filled with the light of the Holy Spirit during a conversion experience in the mountains of North Carolina.
From the Preface: "The poems collected here are the result of reflection that at first resembled and then later became a form of meditation and prayer. For the most part, they capture moments during which I felt... a presence I now know was God.... Although I wandered several more years, I eventually experienced for myself the power of true prayer. Part of my journey to the light of Jesus Christ is recorded in these poems.... they emerge out of my relationship with those places where we often encounter God, and where God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit waited for me--in the beauty of the natural world he created and in daily life."
What They're Saying ...
Kevin Bezner's work is clear, meditative, honest, refreshing, his voice humble before the world. His poem Birds in only ten lines helps to remind us why we had the desire to take up a pen in the first place to treat the earth right, to find its beauty and terror in words accurate and true. -- Walter Pavlich, author of The Spirit of Blue Ink, Ongoing Portraits, and Running Near the End of the World
Kevin Bezner, a true pilgrim, records his journey with heartening lucidity. We can feel the nothingness / we call self, / which is air, but isn't air. These are devotional poems with which nonbelivers like myself can sympathize. When he writes, My heart is bleeding, but today it bleeds prayer, he has arrived where he started, but knows it anew. --David Mason, Poet Laureate of Colorado. (Arrivals, poetry; Ludlow, a verse novel; Two Minds of a Western Poet, a collection of essays; and News from the Village, a memoir.)
Following the Light is a valuable meditation on God s creation, forgiveness, and second chances. This collection beautifully illustrates a deep connection between nature and spiritual healing, and echoes the words of Pope St. John Paul II: Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. Kevin Bezner's writing and experiences with the world around him give the reader hope and restoration. --Christopher Lux, correspondent for the Catholic News Herald, the official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.
From the Author
"I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools through high school, but like many young men and women seduced by secularism I left the Catholic Church in the 1970s. As the years passed, I moved from agnosticism to a vitriolic anti-Catholicism and atheism. In the 1980s, my study and writing of poetry led me to Zen Buddhism, which I informally practiced through the 1990s. As a poet, I sought to know the natural world and to erase my sense of self in the practice of my art, like the Chinese and Japanese poets and artists I admired. In nature and in the writing of poetry, I felt a presence that brought me peace and calm. I explained this presence as nothing more than the result of my attentiveness to the natural world, but in my heart I knew that it was something more.
On a gray March afternoon in 1998, driving through the mountains of North Carolina, I experienced a brilliant light that I knew was God. Immediately, a hardened atheist was transformed into a believer in Jesus Christ with the knowledge that the Catholic Church is the one true Church. I also recognized that this was the light that had been calling me in nature and in the writing of my poetry. Four years later, after thirty years of living outside the Catholic Church, I attended Mass for the first time on Easter morning."
Kevin Bezner has published seven collections of poetry, edited two books on American poets, and published numerous interviews with American poets and fiction writers. He holds a doctorate in English from Ohio University, a master's degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, master's degrees in English and American Studies from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor's in American Studies from Roger Williams.
REVIEW: FOLLOWING THE LIGHT by Kevin BeznerI had known of Kevin Bezner at least several years before even meeting him in 1987, having followed his writing before encountering him in person. His poetry began being published in book form at the start of the nineties, and for those who have never read him, his latest work, Following the Light, serves as both an overview of his work past and present as well as a look at his evolution as a person and a soul in search of his place in the world.
Divided into sections named after the books from which the selected works were originally published, the works in this “anthology” deal with nature and mankind, the temporal and the spiritual, an aspect of Bezner’s being that is all the more interesting given his return to the Church and his pursuit of a place within its hierarchy.
One of the more interesting aspects of this work is watching how the poet’s crafting and form have gone through cycles while much of the thematic material stays fairly constant. He plays with line and meter, never settling into any “routine” while still using many of the same images whether he talks of the animal kingdom or the Heavenly Kingdom. It can be seen in the similarities in both structure and approach between the opening poem (“The Earth Does Not Need Us”) and the piece that opens his newer works (“Storm”). Note how familiar couplets such as
maple all down
are with their later counterpart in “Storm:”
The air is thick
with hundreds of acorns,
the treetops heavy
with cacophonous birds.
Even the titles maintain a consistency, seen in the second works of each section, the earlier “When Evening Comes, Winter” and the later “Winter Nights.” Yet this is not to say that the work is unyielding; in fact, it is anything but that. There are many Catholic-themed pieces here such as “Lilacs in Bloom,” “Poem for Mary Magdalene,” or “Bread of Life,” but there are also a fair number of pieces dealing with reflection and understanding, a task that Bezner seems to have set before himself in later years based on both personal and worldly experiences.
Read “Hiking With My Old Self” or “Vocation,” as he recalls how “Twice you called. Twice I failed to answer,” and one encounters a deeply personal and unyielding gaze of a writer wrestling with the questions of any lifetime. He doesn’t go easy on himself either. In “Dark Days, Light,” Bezner looks back at
When I was lost like Dante without a Virgil
to guide, or a Beatrice to intercede.
Watching Kevin Bezner go through the many changes he has in his life has been an interesting experience for those of us who know him on a personal level. For those who don’t, Following the Light gives its readers a most personal look.
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