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Poetic Gems
Distinguished by their warmth, their engaging metric tug, and a surefooted epigrammatic clarity, Morris’s inviting devotional poems hark back to an earlier of age of popular American verse, when general interest magazines ran lively poetry crafted to appeal to all ages. More a treasury than a collection, this volume, first published in 1980, opens with a preface in which Morris explains that she selected the title “Poetic Gems” out of the conviction that its selections are precious, as they praise and honor her God, and that reading them will “cheer the soul of every reader.” For Christian readers, poems like “Don’t Grow Weary” (“Remain faithful to Christ in all that we do”) or “Giving” (“Let's give our time, talent and treasure/ In service to God each day”) fit that bill, though Poetic Gems also ranges into general-interest territory with titles like the bicentennial celebration “A Tribute to America,” “Rainy Days,” or the irresistible “Stray Dog,” which rhymes “It’s time you had a feeding” with “A bath is what you’re needing.”

Morris’s voice is conversational yet conversational, touched with song, nursery rhyme, scripture, and the occasional “o my,” all in what used to be called “the American grain.” Her poems are often upbeat, even insistent, on commonsensical truths like good manners and the Golden Rule. She urges cooperation (in “Cooperation”), moving past “foolish prejudices'' (“Get Involved”), and treating people well (“A Friend” advises “Prove yourself friendly and you'll have a friend.”)

Her devotional work, by contrast, acknowledges “Dark Days” and the “interruptions and disappointments” that make perseverance a challenge. Yet even as she faces troubled times, Morris finds and shares comfort: “God is not to blame /For man's course of action,” she notes, and reminds believers “So don't let trouble get you down/ Remain faithful and wear a Crown.” Her faith, optimism, and championing of simple gifts is especially refreshing all these decades later, when such voices are vanishingly rare.

Takeaway: Devotional verse and celebrations of the everyday, all in the commonsensical American grain.

Great for fans of: Leland Ryken’s The Soul in Paraphrase: A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poems, Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson’s Before the Door of God.

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