Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent
Reviewed by John Thornley in Touchstone April 2017
Mark is a Christian musician, poet, writer and communicator, and over more than 30 years, he has recorded many albums and published three poetry books and a children’s storybook. With his wife, Brenda Liddiard, he has done many tours of house- and church-based music concerts, in New Zealand and overseas.
Mark and Brenda live in a high-rise apartment in central Auckland, close enough for Mark to do busking on Queen Street. As he writes: “It’s good to keep in touch with life where it happens – with people where they are.”
This collection contains seventy-one poems inspired by the Hebrew Psalms, which provide ‘good jump-off points’ for the poems that express Mark’s ‘love, hopes and fears to God’.
As the poet writes in his introduction, “The songs are numbered instead of having titles, in the hope that this leaves a degree of open-endedness, so that God can say to you what you need to hear. Dip into them at random. May there be a few holy surprises here for you.”
The language is everyday and unpolished, with imagery drawn from the poet’s life experiences:
God holds us, just as I hold this stone
sees our hardness and our beauty
feels our weight and rough edges
knows our history and potential
we’re all miracles, waiting to happen
we should feel loved.
There is a strong confessional and salvation note in the poems, reflecting similar emphases found in the Psalms and the parables of Jesus:
I’m like a child coming home from school
tasting my mum’s home made baking
life seems a bit like Heaven –
now and then.
As reflecting the lows and highs on life’s journey, the feelings embrace both anger and frustration, compassion and hope:
When I look around me
it’s dog eat dog out there
and if you’re vulnerable or broken
they stare like you’re some kind of freak.
There will never be too many God songs
let’s keep on singing about the good stuff
get out the guitar – warm up your voices
it’s time to compose another one
the best and loudest anthem yet!
There are prayers for the individual and prayers for community, and we need both. Redemption Songs complements well Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land: Psalms Poems and Haiku (2015). While Gibson’s prayers/reflections find a place for collective worship in civic and church venues, Laurent’s poems offer resources for those working in pastoral and counselling roles with individuals and small groups in such places as hospitals and rest homes, prisons and shelter homes. They are also good for personal devotions.
These two collections of poetry are published by Philip Garside Publishing, which is to be commended for making it possible for Christian poets in Aotearoa to be widely read.
Those wanting more information, including how to arrange a local concert from Mark and Brenda, can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org ”
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