Pamela J. Garner’s Live Above the Clouds is a collection of heart-felt poems of inspiration and devotion expressing her abiding faith in and connection with God. Her unadorned, even plainspoken language provides an effective setting for the all-but-inexpressible convictions she’s trying to put into words.
The ballad-like poem, “At Jesus’ Feet,” demonstrates Garner’s quiet, unobtrusive use of rhyme and rhythm. The tone of the poem moves from humility to spiritual fulfillment. Though the poem’s speaker begins “At Jesus’ feet,” she is carried by His words “aloft / To heights above where eagles fly / And there we soared, my Lord and I.”
Garner also injects a feeling of urgency through repetition in poems such as “Press On”: “Press on, press on, though all about seems dim / Press on, press on, keep your eyes stayed on Him.” Even as the repetition gives drive to the line, Garner interjects the quiet contrast of fixing one’s eyes on the goal– a paradoxical conceit that stays with readers.
This is not say, however, that the book is unproblematic. Two of the primary risks in devotional poetry are that if the language is too general, it will seem flat and abstract; and if too particular and personal, it will be too dense and private to allow readers access. Too many of the poems here fall prey to the first problem: they are too general, too flat: “There are times when we struggle / Through trial and temptation / But He is always there / The Captain of our salvation.” At times, the lines fall out of poetry altogether and become mere preachy prose: “You weren’t brought into this world / To wallow in murky sin-infested water / Or in sordid, sleazy living /…”
Garner is at her best when her warm, generous heart conveys her love and conviction in lines and forms that are simple yet sturdy enough to bear the weight of her passionate beliefs.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.