God Went to Beauty School

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I am so scared right now that I may be the single most cold or stupid person out there, who has read this book and not liked it much. Or simply got it wrong. There are rave reviews everywhere, and people have been moved to laughter and tears by this book.. and here I am.

Cynthia Rylant’s collection of poems explores the mundane experiences of God on earth- from making spaghetti, to getting a dog, to finding peace on a boat, to feeling lonely eating dinner alone.

I was reminded of the saying, “God created man in his own image, and then man returned the compliment.” Don’t get me wrong, the writer is clearly engaging and clever. I did laugh several times in delight.. like when God caught a cold and found it difficult to be authoritative.

It’s hard to thunder, “THOU SHALT NOT!”

When it comes out, “THOU SHALT DOT!”

And there were some poignant moments like when ‘God gets a dog’ even though ‘God didn’t know if he could take being needed by one more thing.”

And my favourite here:

“God got a desk job….

He thought his job was tough

Till he sat at a desk all day

It was torture

He could feel the light

Inside him grow dimmer and dimmer”

 But I couldn’t shake off the feeling throughout that something was off.. Where is this going? I kept wondering.

Perhaps the poet’s intent is to help understand what one hears all the time: God is everywhere. And children, possibly even adults, are often unsure exactly how.

Perhaps the intent is to help people, especially young people, come to terms with all the injustice in the world, by showing that ‘God is also human after all’. That’s my best interpretation from the way the book concludes, anyway.

But if God is not the all-powerful omniscient omnipotent being that parents teach children to believe, why would anyone need the concept of God at all?

It is a very very big thing to take away from someone- especially a child- the belief that there is someone who is an all-powerful protector, not only of them, but their family, friends, pets.

If you thought breaking it to children that Santa Claus is fantasy is cruel, how does one rate the cruelty of this?!

In reading couple of books meant for youngsters (another recent one was ‘More than this’ by Patrick Ness), it seems to me that there’s a tendency to use clever plots, and clever play of language, but a simplistic message. Whereas what I would imagine young people need, is exactly the opposite.

There’s also something to be said about poetry. I have been reading several of my own poems of late, and it is very easy to see that some are written by the heart, and some by the mind. When reading the latter, I’ve felt a sense of pity similar to watching someone contorting their body in painful shapes. You feel like walking over and saying, “Relax. There’s no need. Let it flow the way it feels natural.”

And here’s what I hope I’ll do well to remember myself: There are so many ways to be clever in this world.. but let poetry not become one of them.

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