In My Father's Care

Description

45 pages
Contains Illustrations
$4.95
ISBN 0-88954-248-1

Publisher

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by David A. Kent

David A. Kent teaches English at Centennial College and is the editor of
Christian Poetry in Canada.

Review

Distinguished religious poetry, a kind of poetry that involves a special host of dangers, is very rare. The danger of slipping into sentimentality or self-righteousness or of rising up into preachy dogmatism is endemic to the mode and Bonnie McKendry-Fenton, unfortunately, does not escape the danger. Readers may respect the missionary imperative felt by religious convents and yet disapprove of the way the audience then tends to be excluded from sharing the experiences recorded by the poems. This volume’s introduction proudly proclaims this very exclusiveness. It consequently appropriates its own initiates as audience: “we who have accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord are even aware that we are loved and cared for.” McKendry-Fenton’s poems all too faithfully elaborate this stance through pouncing rhythms, predictable rhymes, tiresome cliches (yes, a “rugged cross”), and formulaic doctrinal effusions. These poems are, to describe them more accurately, spiritual songs rather than poems; that is because the language of a hymn is inevitably sacrificed to extrinsic dictates such as musical accompaniment and the need for access to congregational comprehension and repetition.

Another prominent weakness in this collection is that most readers will have difficulty respecting the quality of faith implied by the poems. It seems a faith neither hard-won nor sustained with struggle. To speak of the sky as having “host its sunny glow” or to lament those occasions “when life seems dull and grey” is to mock unintentionally the spiritual anguish that generates the drama of the best religious verse. In this age of television evangelists, our instinctive cynicism cannot be won over by repeated formulae, and while simplicity is certainly appropriate to a Christian poetic, simple-mindedness is not. Sin, it hardly needs to be said, is a more profound matter than “worldly thoughts and hopes and dreams / And lofty self-pride too.” McKendry-Fenton’s work may circulate among the convinced, since its stance of achieved faith will be best appreciated there. But for those outside the “born-again” group, the poems will not constitute an effective Christian witness.

Citation

McKendry-Fenton, Bonnie, “In My Father's Care,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38174.