Reflections on faith and heartbreak.
By Rachel Blood
Postmodernity has murdered art, and nobody says it better than 2017 Bethel graduate Josiah Callaghan.
Callaghan, who earned a degree in biblical and theological studies from Bethel and a Masters of Arts in Bible from Luther College in 2020, beautifully integrates Christian concepts, classic literature and well-articulated emotional turmoil in his first book, “The Postmodern Poet: Himeros & Anteros.”
The anthology is divided into seven parts: Lilac, Violet, Lilith, Venus, Lily, Vapor and Lúthien. When read thematically from start to finish, the various parts meld together to create a journey I think many can relate to in one way or another. Beginning as a boy full of innocence and trust in the world, of humanity and of love, “The Postmodern Poet” flows from youth to maturity in a series of ups and downs, repeated heartbreak, intense emotion and theological reflection.
“Lilac” opens with the viewpoint that love is pure and a gift and eventually transitions to the concept that postmodern Western society has murdered not only art, but “truth, beauty, innocence and the divine spark.”
Callaghan encourages readers to embrace the nuances of emotion and to really love, because nothing truly worthwhile comes without risk. This exploration of love and faith and their mutual exclusiveness is perhaps what will make the work so appealing to people in various stages of growth. In “Lilac,” Callaghan nods to Tennyson with a slight play on his famous line: “‘Tis better to have lived and lost, than never to have lived at all.”
After a declaration that “if love is dead, so is God” in “Vapor,” the collection ends in a triumphant declaration of hope which left my heart full: “Love never dies!” In sophisticated language but relatable themes, Callaghan tells of a boy clinging to optimism and hope for a perhaps shattered and most certainly disenchanted world.
Feeling himself breaking in the liminal space between a dying age and a new, more cynical one, Callaghan comes to terms with his natural inclination to feel intensely. Everything from the fall of Romanticism to classic heartbreak is represented in this raw and vulnerable collection.
“The Postmodern Poet,” filled with references to known authors from all over the world, Greek mythology and the intricacies of many languages, illustrates the sacredness of words, or even of silence, which Callaghan says we must relearn.
“The Postmodern Poet” will be published this summer by Good Soil Press.