The Pondering Heart, a poetry collection by author Lesline Nembhard, speaks clearly of Nembhard’s faith in God. While not all poems are religious in scope, most follow familiar refrains present in religious writings and liturgies. Whether rejoicing over her own good fortune, questioning difficulties in the Middle East, or lamenting over the hardships of friends, the poet keeps God and the Bible in constant focus.
Nembhard contemplates all matter of life in this collection–death, birth, feeling alone–and frequently reaches for meaning by recounting stories from the Bible. Her most successful poems, however, reach beyond biblical images to her own life. In “The Future,” she details particulars of her possible future (“loose teeth, loneliness, bent knees”) that others can easily relate to, but that also make her come alive as a particular person. She ends the poem with a rhyme so smooth that it is easy to glide past the meaning embedded there: “My human frailty, fear of the unknown, fear of the past. / Rest in the future, peace at last.” The poems in this collection frequently use end rhyme and show Nembhard’s ear for rhythm.
Despite the bright spots of originality, Nembhard repeatedly falls back on tried-and-true phrases, such as “sand through the hour glass” and “proud as a peacock” in her poems. But for readers expecting and desiring a religious journey above all else, Nembhard’s common word choices may not be problematic. Readers wishing to supplement their own religious ponderings with verse may find the voice of a friend in The Pondering Heart.
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