And With Thy Spirit
Poems by April Bulmer
Reviewed by Katherine L. Gordon
Poet, Publisher, Editor, Judge and Reviewer.
A manuscript to jolt you from the comfortable edges and spiritual inertia of this hugely selfish and somewhat shallow generation, into the deep and heady seas of vision. A welcome philosophy for the famished soul to make sense of pain, life, death and rapture. This book by April Bulmer is a landmark of literature to cherish and reference as we evolve from static views into a discovery
of our own divinity and purpose.
Sections of this work approach multi-layered vision: in April, Fathers, we catch glimpses
of the Father who dies, returns, companions. April struggles with the difficulties of rejection in
childhood but the resolution of understanding relationships throughout meetings in many lives,
how the Father’s perceived return “your mind an aura of evergreen” represents the Christ-like relationship:
“there is a god of torn nets and broken vessels.” The impelling memories of an Ojibway time of fathers/elders/medicine men/ arise.
In Bernadette, Mothers section the hot immediacy of the body compels with its fullness, desire and pain, fleshing out its command over all: “the water a shade of wound.” Women receiving men,
birthing children, fashioning the grit earth of it, the fiery universe of us. Native visions are palpably real in April’s work, as though keenly there, lush with longing, Johnny Nanticoke an ever-mate.
In bruising lines the stark appraisal of this life: “I rattle my pills/like lost teeth.”
Blue, the sacred colour of Mary’s mantle and the sky goddess, occurs as a theme of cleansing,
“that blue soap” fair linen cloths to purify “the musk/of your land/ on my skin.
“We read souls like poems/ their rhythms/their tears/their bones.”
One senses that incarnations could alternate between male and female presentation.
The vital gnosis here is that rock, tree, animal, all peoples, intertwine with us in the passionate cycle,
the shape-shifting, “the scent of my shadow.” There is fierce passion in manifestation, from root
to galaxy. One begins to discard preconceptions as this work unfolds.
Mary and Jesus remain symbols of our long conflict with history: “an apple broken
open” “before the legend of hurts.” Here is spirit experience as profound as the Nirvana of meditation, like the rapture of the ancients into the presence of god: “My spirit grazes on flowers.”
Not for the timid to open the stars. A whole new assessment of the Jesus vision as fellow sufferer, prophet and partner, who can also be interpreted as a feminine aspect of ourselves.
Menses blood, as poetisized here is also a force for renewal. Rudolph Steiner once wrote
that “blood is the bridge between spirit and matter.” April makes this continuum observation
as well as the link to sacrifice in The Scar, a hint of blood-offering to leap into the ecstasy of spirit-union. Vision becomes fusion. Jesus, the Moon, gods and goddesses, coalesce into spirit personified through many incarnations, to permeate and celebrate.
April’s Contemplations of Moon remind one of the ancient figurines of Neolithic women, emphasis on hips and breasts, the life-force of humanity.
The constant interplay of light and dark, the snake and the blossom, as in May, Healer, emphasizes the need to recognize both forces as necessary to our existence. We hold the quality of each: “something howls/
it is my heart/ all that whimper and growl.”
Perhaps April has glimpsed the true meaning of our gods, the need for ever-changing
perception, the ringing role of the feminine, the rapture caught in earth, blood, pain and bone,
and the re-creating.
The language of this book can be like nails in soft flesh, even in the beauty of her spare lines,
an invitation to The Serpent to “nest in my petals,” “rise in the morning/ with original sin.” also
“And God swells and contracts/ like the waist of the moon.”
Flashes of vision we need to confront and re-learn.
Clues in the Introduction and Afterword are an insight into April Bulmer’s current work.
And With Thy Spirit will infuse and excite all the longings to understand oneself, part of the
evolving perspective of every culture.
April Bulmer’s poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies including Arc, The Malahat Review and Quills. Born in Toronto, Bulmer’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in English and Mass Communications from York University as well as three Master’s degrees: Creative Writing, Concordia University, Theology, University of Trinity College and Religious Studies, University of Windsor. Women of the Cloth is Bulmer’s newest poetry collection. She has published six other books of poetry and four chapbooks. Her second book Weight of Wings was short-listed for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman. She lives in Cambridge, Ontario.