December 10, 2023 Book Review



Gregory Reynolds

Reviewed by: Christopher Campbell

Yuletide: Poems and Artwork, by Gregory R. Reynolds. Monadnock, 2022. Paperback, 46 pages, $15.00 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP elder Christopher Campbell.

For the past fifty years, Gregory Reynolds has crafted Christmas cards with his own poems and artwork. This comes as no surprise to readers of Ordained Servant, edited by Reynolds, in which he makes room in each issue for poems ranging from the classic poets (Marvell, Herbert) to contemporaries (Lee, Green), along with helpful comments such as the difference between free and blank verse. If one is looking for ideas for a Christmas card or gift, one might consider Yuletide, a chapbook of twenty of Reynolds’s Christmas poems and illustrations.

An OP minister, Reynolds states in his preface that his focus is to present the incarnation as the tide-changer that it is. The poems deal with the themes of light, the winter solstice, and the Light come into the darkness. The poet draws on the season for his imagery—”In morning sharp light / Then early darkness at night / Prelude to winter’s frost” (“Winter Solstice II”). In “Winter Solstice I,” we walk with him in winter woods—

Madrigals of silence and snow-sounds
Strike my listening ear this solstice season,
As the black Brookside woods sequester
Long night thoughts of the short-light spell.

If these lines bring to mind Robert Frost, as Reynolds’s poems unfold the biblical narrative, we might also think of T. S. Eliot’s Ariel Poems, such as “The Journey of the Magi” and “A Song for Simeon.” (Interestingly, these and several other of Eliot’s poems were published along with illustrations as part of a series of greeting cards by Eliot’s London publisher.)

In “No Ordinary Birth,” Reynolds writes:

The presence of several mysterious
Magi, not to mention the star
That so oddly guided their industrious
Journey, seeking a king from afar,
Whose glory was hidden from the high
And the mighty, to humble the proud,
To seek sinners and the lowly.

Several of the poems help us to consider mankind’s Savior in a fresh light. “Another Kind of Solstice Light” is addressed to a “you” who views the solstice light as a source of earthly hope only (it’s not clear whom the poem is addressing—Satan, who comes dressed as an angel of light?):

Your earthly hopes were dashed by One
Who from another realm outdid the sun
As Yahweh subtly entered Caesar’s sphere
To bring Emmanuel’s godhead near.

During a break at a presbytery meeting, I noticed one of the pastors writing notes. When I asked him what he was working on, he said he liked to send short, handwritten notes to parishioners to let them know he was praying for them. As we think about Christmas apart from what our culture has made it, Reynolds’s poems and artwork are like those pastor’s handwritten notes—examples of how we might testify to the Light to one who is battling the darkness.



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