Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: L.M. Browning's Oak Wise

Review of L.M. Browning’s Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith by J.M. Reinbold

There is no denying that Oak Wise is beautifully written. L.M. Browning is unusually skilled in the poet’s art. However, there are other features of Oak Wise that I particularly appreciated as well. The first is the author’s Introduction to the book: “Ancient Ways in a Modern World.” This, along with the glossary are alone worth the price of the book and do an admirable job of orienting the non-pagan reader to the great journey that is to come.

For more than anything, Oak Wise is a journey, a journey away from formal religion and a return to the ancient spiritual ways of the Green World. In the reading of this book, I was reminded of two archetypal journeys: The mythic Hero’s Journey and the cyclical journey of the Tarot Fool or Innocent Seeker, who having passed through a series of “illuminations” returns to where he began, now as the Wise Fool or Initiated Seeker, having gained the knowledge that his journey is never ending and that he is now actively and consciously participating in the Eternal Return. Having made this perilous journey herself, L.M. Browning takes her readers by the hand and leads them through Oak Wise allowing them to acutely experience her excitement, sorrow, and joy as she overcomes obstacles and passes through trials that culminate in the revitalization of her soul and spirit.

As a bard and Otherworld journeyer, it is not surprising that the sections of Oak Wise that most appealed to me were “Walking Between the Worlds – A Shaman’s Story” and “The Duties of the Bard.” For these two, the shaman and the bard, sometimes one and the same person, are the collectors, keepers and carriers of ancient wisdom, and when that wisdom is lost to a people, they are the fearless souls who are sent to retrieve it. L.M. Browning was called. She answered that call and has proved to be both brave and able in her mission. Oak Wise is the proof of it.

Oak Wise is richly expressive of the universal need to return to the practices of Earth keeping and of Earth honoring; of reconnecting with the deep spirituality and wisdom of Green World and of listening for and relearning the secret speech of the Green Language, which once heard and understood is never forgotten; of opening our bodies, minds, souls to all that we’ve lost in our headlong rush into industrialism and in our flight from the life-giving land to the lifeless concrete. Oak Wise is gentle, yet unrelenting in its exhortation of us to return to the land and a more conscious, spiritually engaged way of life.

Some pagan readers might find Oak Wise, despite its title, not pagan enough. But therein lies another and deeper strength of this book. It is accessible to many readers from all walks of life and experience. Oak Wise expresses its wisdom in ways and verse that a reader unaccustomed to reading poetry or unfamiliar with Celtic Shamanism or Celtic Spirituality can easily apprehend. And that is the test of a true bard.

L. M. Browning's next book in this series, Ruminations at Twilight , will be released on August 29, 2010 from Little Red Tree Press.

-- Review by JM Reinbold

J.M. Reinbold is an author, editor and the director of the Written Remains Writers Guild. She is the author of Cernunnos, Ancient Celtic God and other works of fiction and non-fiction.

Written Remains Writers Guild Blog site