Through transcendent, lyric verse, these poems explore the spiritual struggle for harmony between the contemporary and contemplative life. Blending several religious traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian mysticism, and Sufism, Sowder’s poems achieve the essence of devotion—both familial and divine—as he graciously takes readers with him along the path to enlightenment.
The poems in Michael Sowder’s marvelous second collection, House Under Moon, enact “the old story of wander / and homecoming,” the story of a person lost in the wilderness finding a way home. As he moves us out into the world and back to the hearth, Sowder engages us in an expansion and contraction that is like nothing so much as a beating heart, or the breath that guides the poet in the daily meditation central to his spiritual practice. By turns straightforward and mystical, ultimately the movement of the poems takes us in one direction, toward love: love that is spiritual, romantic, filial; love, finally, for the self and therefore for what lives outside the self. Devoted, ecumenical, Sowder’s poems embrace the whole world, both its beauties and its difficulties, either of which can break our hearts or break us open into possibility and joy.
Although these powerful poems are poems of the world, they are also poems of the spirit. Michael Sowder is a rarity among the poets of his generation—indeed, among the poets of any generation. He is a seeker, a searcher after meaning, a yearner for consequence. He knows that the secret message of poetry is connection, and he knows that to turn inward and find the spirit is also to discover the spirit moving through the world. These graceful and stirring poems make those magical connections. Sowder has matured into one of our finest spiritual poets. This is a book of deep and lasting beauty.
Surprise is one of the most satisfying elements in Michael Sowder’s resonant, haunting, House Under the Moon. What appears to be a gentle narrative attention to the delicate complexities of human interaction with mountains and rivers—hiking, making love, tending babies—never stays in one dimension. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a mythic eye-opening, and yes surprising, account of a poet’s satori via the middle way of everyday life.