Book Review by Dr.Annette Esser. Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey

Annette Esser  in September 2013 speaking to a group of pilgrims including myself.

Annette’s Book Review of Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey

What an oeuvre! I love this work. What a superb and elaborates work!
These nine books of poems by Australian poet Colleen Keating tell Hildegard‘s life story plus the ones of her intimates, especially Jutta, Volmar and Richardis in such a stunning way that the reader feels put into the landscape and ambience of the Hildegard’s Medieval cloister world and the most intimate feelings and sensations of her time in the 12th century.
The author presents here her work of 20 years of poetic search and thoughtful reflection.
Myself, having done research on Hildegard as well, since early 1990 in Germany and America, I have never encountered elsewhere such an amazing poetry on Hildegard’s whole life story that even seems to have a grasp on the German language, culture and nature.Self-evidently, the author follows new historical insights after the late translation of the “Life of Lady Jutta“, even though some of her story-telling is still in dispute in the Hildegard research (such as the place of her birth; the site of the Disibodenberg women‘s cell;  the questions whether Hildegard also counts as the foundress of Eibingen; and the question whether the number of “four missionary journeys“ is rather a construct). Yet, as a spiritual Hildegard scholar, I wish to stress that fictional writing is sometimes not just more inspired but also more true than merely accounting historical facts.
Thus, I highly recommend reading, tasting and meditating on this poetic journey on Hildegard of Bingen. It is inspired by deep knowledge and wisdom.
In short: I wish we could translate these poems from the other side of the earth also back into Hildegard‘s own German language. They belong to this world and they belong here.
Dr. Theol. Annette Esser, Foundress and President of the Scivias Institute for Art & Spirituality in Germany, Initiator of the new Hildegard Pilgrimage Way from Idar-Oberstein to Bingen, author of „Die Kirchenlehrerin Hildegard von Bingen“ and „Pilgerbuch Hildegard von Bingen Pilgerwanderweg“ (the Hildegard Pilgrimage Book)

Colleen and Annette 4 years later in March 2017 on my third pilgrimage to Bingen.

Dr. Annette Esser Founder and President of the Scivias Institute for Arts and Spirituality , Germany  met us and invited us to spend time in the room. speaks especially of the wonderful Trinitarian Mandala of Hildegard. 

It was 27 years after Scivias her first book was began. This mandala  is from LIBER DIVINORUM OPERUM – The Book of Divine Works (1163-1170)

Hildegard heard “ . . I, the fiery life of Divine essence am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows. I gleam in the waters. I burn in the sun, moon and stars, With every breeze , as with invisible life that contains everything, I awaken everything to life “

Rupertsberg was a crag at the confluence of the Nahe and the Rhine, in Bingen am Rhein. It is named for Saint Rupert of Bingen, son of Bertha of Bingen. It is notable as the site of the first Abbey founded by Saint Hildegard of Bingen, in 1150, after leaving the monastery at Disibodenberg. 

She acquired the land from Hermann, dean of Mainz, and Count Bernhard of Hildesheim, plus various smaller gifts. The convent chapel was consecrated by Archbishop Henry of Mainz in 1152.  

Hildegard built a thriving community of women with gardens of healing plants  and an Apothecary  to prepare the herbs and plants for healing.

There is thought that she had up to 100 sisters living and studying and working there as a community

The ruins of the monastery were  rediscovered in the work done to make way for a railway track in 1857.

Fire on Water: A Book Review

 BOOK REVIEW by PETER F PIKE 

 

Keating Cover

Fire on Water   by Colleen Keating

Fire on Water—what a strikingly impressive title: and after reading this collection of Colleen’s poems, how apt and appropriate. I remember when I was quite young we purloined some dry-ice from a cold storage facility and put some in a pool of water left in the gutter after a shower. We were fascinated by the bubbles of gas and cloud of vapour that resulted from the chemical reaction. We were just about to leave when an older chap came along, squirted some cigarette lighter fluid onto the puddle and ignited it. Fire on water we were impressed then as I was yesterday when I read Colleen’s poetry book. 

A small suite of poems on downsizing especially resonated with me as we sold our family home last April after 45 years. On page 41 belongings one day my heart unlocked / I donated some and ordered a skip / emptied the garage returned the key / it felt like a heavy pack moved / off my back after a long hike I walked / lightly feeling so much had owned me … 

Colleen’s interest and observation of the minutiae of life is fascinating—only a poet of some standing could record 

‘a tiny brown sparrow in the gutter defies fragility / as it tackles a twig too big for its flight’… taken from choice on page 108. part of the section entitled Exultation. From the same section on page 110, this gem: 

the vicissitudes of a blue butterfly  

she lavishly opens her wings
teal-blue fans quiver  
playing warm still air
motley light from the trees

she darts and dives 
ah with what precision                        IMG_5051
dodges the many hazards 
with angular flight 

creole-eyed she alights to sip
from sweet honey-dewed 
red-dressed grevilleas
moves like notes of music 
up and down around and in me
with lightness and freedom

i think of shy miss butterfly 
sprawled in Eliot’s poem 
pinned and wriggling on the wall

I know dull blue of wings 
etherised   
silver-pinned under glass

today her iridescent triangles of blue
flash with the sun   like flying jewels
intoxicated with life

The vivid images conjured up by Colleen’s poems are spectacular word-pictures that impress themselves on the reader’s mind. They are recalled with ease long after reading.

The appealing illustration on the front cover is by Colleen’s daughter Elizabeth. 

Colleen’s poetry exposes us to a large range of emotions. Stillborn on page 75 forces us to face up to a situation that as Australians we are, in the main, still reluctant to address. 

winter darkens our land
the tree outside my window
is stark and bare
close up new life is tightly budded 

the news says
our country has turned back refugees at sea people seeking asylum
returned to face those they flee 

history like a drawbridge is pulled up closed off
humanity is stillborn 

hearts are cold
fear deadens minds 

the everywoman in me weeps for the birthing 

the woman with child is weeping the woman in every woman
if you are not weeping
ask why 

Colleen’s book is 122 pages, Perfect Bound published by Ginninderra Press ISBN 978-1-76041-351-4 and is priced at $22.50 and is highly recommended. 

Page 26 FreeXpresSion– March 2018 

Thank you Peter Piper for a great review of Fire on Water and thanks for your dedication to poetry and poetry writers.

 

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