Paradise is a concept tied deeply to one’s faith in the afterlife. However, the soul can experience paradise without physically leaving the earth. How poetry can achieve this earthly miracle and bridge the gap between the worlds is a discussion that makes the core of Donald Revell’s Sudden Eden (Parlor Press, 2019).
The essays in Revell’s Sudden Eden hold a literary depth of meaning and metaphor. Individual essays take up one or more contemporary poets and relate their poetic expressions to other works by celebrated poets as well as other literary figures. Since the concept of paradise is intimately tied to mortality and existence, the poems cited for discussion are analyzed for metaphors of life and death, origin and end, existence and absence. Other keywords in the same line of thought explored in the book include: purity, faith, rebirth, disruption, silence, and loyalty.
Since Eden traditionally has been conceived as a garden, Revell does take his reader through the depiction of paradisiacal elements—garden, flowers, forest—in works of timeless poets like Shelley and Dante, creating a trail that fences poetry’s border of paradise. By relating the works of poets from different literary periods, the author draws his own historical map of poetry using the key metaphysical and semantic variables as his compass.
Donald Revell’s Sudden Eden is a work of literary criticism and thorough semantic exploration in contemporary poetry. It cultivates curiosity and, in a way, respect for human expression in verse as readers are invited to explore the beauty of meaning and freedom of the soul without shedding their earthly existence—which perhaps is the poetic definition of paradise.
With its literary merit, Sudden Eden seemingly has its limitation in terms of readership. It is not a book any reader would enjoy or find very meaningful. Instead, you need some background in literature and should be familiar with at least some, if not most/all, works of poetry discussed in the book. In simple terms, it’s a book for students, educators, and enthusiast of poetry and metaphysics.
Disclaimer: This reviewer has not read most of the original works cited by the author of this book.