For those who struggle with the effects of an abusive home environment, Cherie Burbach's recently published book, Father's Eyes, may provide hope and solace. Burbach, the daughter of an abusive, alcoholic father who ultimately took his own life, chronicles her journey through despair to Christian faith, from struggle to search to surrender to embrace --- the embrace, that is, of God the Father's love. The poems are honest, accessible, and cathartic, no doubt, for Burbach as well as others who may share her experience.
That being said, I have to say, with Garrison Keillor, that "[s]elf-expression is not the point of it, people!" In a funny and yet insightful article a number of years ago in The Atlantic Monthly entitled "The Poetry Judge," Keillor makes the pithy observation that "[e]xperience becomes literature when it no longer matters to the reader whether the story is true or not." He's right. Good poems are the ones that bring pleasure in the reading -- so much pleasure that you might just read them to the person sitting next to you. Writers and readers of poetry love the sight and sound of language; meaning and content must be carried along by such words.
The sense I have in reading Father's Eyes is that I am peering into Burbach's journal. When I read "I am the guilt of my father's illness/ I am the burden of his death/ I am evidence of his addiction," I am sympathetic. But because I do not share her experience, I must decide whether to read the poems because I love the writing, and I can't say that I do. I encourage her to use more concrete, particular images, to write about a wider array of topics, and to drop the personal pronoun. For someone who loves writing, I suspect there are good poems to be written and, ultimately, she will write them.
"In The Father's eyes/ I'm His child./ His delight./ He wants me here,/ and I belong." We can celebrate God's embrace of Cherie Burbach and hope her book will help other strugglers. with abusive home situations. We can also watch for more developed and mature writing in future books. And we can celebrate the Father who rescues us and gifts us with the ability to glorify him in our writing and other vocations.