God is a Laughing Bedouin


poems by Cullene Bryant

96 Pages
April 28, 2017

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The poems in God is a Laughing Bedouin are a journey through a life lived, set with and against a spirituality that is imbued into the collection in ways that any reader can relate to. The poems evoke powerful emotions and responses, and bear witness to the world around us with keen eyes, cutting edge, and relentless reality. Many of the poems have a spiritual tone, inspired by the poet’s experience of forty days of silence in the gracious company of the Jesuits at Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario. Biblical characters as portrayed as flawed and part of the human condition, illuminating the universal emotions that are explored in the poems. These poems are written with imagination, feminism, humour, at times breathtaking use of images and language and will appeal to both the agnostic and the spiritual reader.

“By turns reverent and irreverent, God is a Laughing Bedouin puts a human face on the Biblical story and confronts the stages of a woman’s life with wit and fearlessness. Bryant’s collection reminds me of Colm Toibin’s celebrated The Testament of Mary in its candour and compassion. Playful yet immensely moving, these poems show us what it means to be mortal.”

—Evelyn Lau

“It’s rare to encounter poems that break free of conventions. Bryant recognizes this is where poetry’s power is as she turns the questions of aging, spiritual life, intimacy and death inside out. The result is exhilarating.”

—Betsy Warland

“Cullene Bryant’s God Is a Laughing Bedouin is at turns funny, heartbreaking, and sublime. We are in an age in which the territory of the spiritual is disputed, sometimes productively and sometimes destructively, but Bryant’s voice cuts through the noise with a reminder that the highest thoughts are rooted in direct experience. Her poems are wrought from the quotidian suffused with the elevated, and the sublime brought into deep, familiar focus. With these poems, Bryant will shepherd you through to the self you see in others—the self you’ll recognize in these flashes of the eternal.”

—Wayde Compton

“Whether through unflinching and compassionate poems about her work as a hospital chaplain assisting patients during the final days of their lives, or through vivid and often wryly humorous poems about marriage, childbirth, divorce, widowhood, and aging, Cullene Bryant co-mingles the personal and the Biblical to reveal the arc of a rich and varied life. From delight to despair to celebration, these poems explore the presence (or absence) of the Holy with open eyes and an open spirit.”

—Fiona Tinwei Lam

About the Author

Cullene Bryant (June 4,1941-April 23, 2017) was a retired minister in the United Church of Canada, and mother of two and grandmother to 5 grandchildren. She authored two collections of short fiction, Llamas In The Snow (1993) and In the Dry Woods (2005). The title story of the latter collection, “In The Dry Woods,” was awarded the 2006 national Canadian Christian Writing Award. Her stories have aired on CBC radio and appeared in various literary journals, among them Room of One’s Own; Fiddlehead; Descant and The Iowa Review. God is a Laughing Bedouin is her first poetry collection.


1 review for God is a Laughing Bedouin

  1. inannaadmin

    God is a Laughing Bedouin by Cullene Bryant
    reviewed by Candice James, Canadian Poetry Review – July 12, 2017

    This collection of poetry runs the gamut from birth to death in humour and sorrow, laying bare and flayed out on a colorless canvas the invisible truth we each own viewed through open eyes and lids sometimes sewn shut. Bryant stares life in the face of reflections. Sometimes the mirror likes what it sees; sometimes it doesn’t as evidenced in the “When She Visits”: ‘Before she was born / you sat in your armchair / sipped scotch / smoked a pipe / peered over the newspaper rustling./// Ice still tinkles in your glass / when she visits./// If I lived with you now I would hurl the glass / into the fireplace, burn the newspaper / overturn your chair and all.”

    We journey through the pages as participant and/or witness conjunctively or alternately. The yin and the yang of the ‘here’ and the ‘ther’e are sharply brought into focus with the poignant sweep of the poet’s pen. In “Question” Bryant gives an almost perfect description of God for a small questioning child who asks “What dos God look like? Bryant answers: “God is like the ocean and we are the fish/ water around us within us / gushing through our gills / aflame with the rush of tides.”

    Unconventional, sometimes shocking and other times a parody of nuances in an over-crowded auditorium of deaf mutes. The sound of one hand clapping, nobody hears but there is always a faint rustle in the breeze created by that one hand to allow the totally aware and tuned in to hear the vibration. God Is a Laughing Bedouin is religious and pious, yet sacrilegious and irreverent; imagination runs amok in the house of the Lord dancing to an out of tune pipe organ proving God to be just that… “a laughing bedouin”.

    About the Reviewer: Candice James was appointed Poet Laureate Emerita by the City of New Westminster, BC CANADA after completing 2 three year terms (2010-2016) as Poet Laureate. She is past president of both Royal City Literary Arts Society and Federation of British Columbia Writers; and author of thirteen poetry books: the first A Split In The Water” (Fiddlehead Poetry Books 1979); and the most recent are “The Water Poems” (Ekstasis Editions 2017); Her awards include the Bernie Legge Artist Cultural Award and Pandora’s Collective Citizenship award. She is the founder of the annual “Fred Cogswell Award For Excellence In Poetry”; Poetic Justice; Poetry In the Park; Slam Central; Poetry New Westminster and Royal City Literary Arts Society. Further info at website: http://www.candicejames.com and Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candice_James

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