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The Garden Path
Part I of this book consists of nine chapters of twelve illustrated limericks taking the reader through the stages of spiritual development in this Earthly Garden. Part II is an essay on the Persian polymath Omar Khayyam, illustrating how wisdom can be transmitted in dangerous times and making the argument that skepticism, in the classic sense, is the highest form of faith.
Voorhees puts a poetic form typically associated with comic doggerel to dedicated spiritual purpose in this urgent, charming collection of limericks, arranged to suggest the stages of a life and a path toward enlightenment. Opening with stanzas about living in a sleep-like state—in which people are “Avoiding the ache/ Of being awake”—The Garden Path then journeys on, chapter by chapter, charting a seeker-to-be’s development, from first recognizing a need for something more nourishing from this life (“The bird in the ribcage must fly/ But fearful of making a try”) to tentative first steps (“Shun greedy confusion!/ Drop that illusion!”) and beyond. At long last, in the ninth chapter, the seeker stands confidently before “the image of eternity” knowing that “A sensitive mind/ will find if inclined/ A ship to sail this endless sea.”

There’s an inspired tension between the limerick form, so rigid and predictable, and the searching, consciousness-expanding material. Voorhees acknowledges this with an imprecation, in introductory material, to “learn the difference between container and content.” Since the time of Edward Lear, limericks have encouraged readers to enter a spirit of anticipatory play, their minds reaching ahead to what the final rhyme might be. By contrast Voorhees tends to place less emphasis on the last word—the container—and more on the ideas—content—throughout, inviting readers to search for deeper meaning rather than a punchline.

Tasteful sketches accompany verses about what “bozos” we can be and the effort it takes to “attain the goal/ Becoming human, free and whole.” To fit the rhyme and meter Voorhees isn’t afraid to bend language and grammar, though it seems churlish to complain when the limericks encourage a state of contemplative reverie—and when it’s the content that counts. A concluding essay, “Seeking Truth in Dangerous Times,” is illuminating, especially when Voorhees, a mathematician, contemplates the mathematics of infinity, through the lens of Omar Khayyam.

Takeaway: Inspiring limericks that follow and encourage a spiritual awakening.

Great for fans of: The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse, Omar Khayyam.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A