Book Review: “Due North” by James Zimmerman (2012)

“The armor kept our vitals, the Spirit kept our soul.” (11)

Epic poetry—not really my genre, though my experience with it has been mere fits and starts with such masterpieces as Paradise Lost, The Iliad, and even Shakespeare. While Due North certainly does not equate itself with the classics, it is a worthy attempt at teaching eternal truths through rhythmic prose.

Hearkening somewhat to the journey in Pilgrim’s ProgressDue North recounts the metaphoric journey of a believer through the cliffs and valleys and the hills and dales of Christian life. Each location symbolizes an emotion, a trial, or a victory; and while some chapters and locations are difficult to figure out or to visualize in the spiritual mind’s eye, others are so glaringly obvious that conviction is hard to suppress.

One particular location, “The Blue Mountains” of Chapter 7, hit home for me. After leaving “Safe Harbor,” the travelers follow “Shirkin River” until they reach: The Blue Mountains, what a place to be. Their appearance seemed to captivate in bold transparency. The color of the water, the sky and the sea. The next leg of our journey – Depression’s Majesty. (17)

On this peak, the beauty of the mountains grows old, the colors melding in the haze. The travelers journey on, yet they seem to never make headway. At one point, they muse: We stopped to camp along the way, fast approaching was the night. The finest hour of the day was when our dreams took flight. With hope reborn, strength revived, all would be okay. But, alas, we had awakened to just another day. (17)

And who has not felt this way before! The victory that the travelers ultimately gained in this dreary land was an encouragement to me, for their conclusion was to walk by faith and trust in God, for He is faithful even when it seems that He is distant.

The lessons of this book really fit into any circumstance that a believer might face, though their poignancy might not be fully realized unless the reader happens to be in the midst of those very same circumstances.  The drawbacks to Due North deal less with its theology or imagery (since so much of it is hard to understand!) and more with its overall presentation. Zimmerman’s editor and publisher should have done a better job at cleaning up his text — both in grammar and style. Poetry’s not an easy genre to perfect, but if they desire to maintain a prosaic feel throughout, they need to care far more about proper punctuation and logic than they do about leading the reader by the hand saying, “This is how you’re supposed to read this line.” Maybe I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing my own poetry, but I feel strongly that a poem’s message gets the limelight only when its style is succinct.

I enjoyed reading this “epic poem,” though I think it needs a revision or two before it succeeds in the mainstream. The author’s illustrations are clever, though somewhat childish. Perhaps updated artwork could be part of that revision as well.

©2014 E.T.

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