A review of "Sea Sleeps: New and Selected Poems"
By Adie Smith
Greg Miller turns his discerning eye outwards in his newest collections of poems, The Sea Sleeps, translating experience into finely wrought verse. A scholar of the Welsh metaphysical poet and Anglican priest, George Herbert, Miller draws from Herberts use of form to contain expansive ideas.
Selected from several previous published collections, as well as large selections of new poems, The Sea Sleeps reveals Millers range over nearly a decade of published work. Undeterred by experimentation, Millers poems are of a refreshed formalism. "Forgiveness" sprawls across the page in shattered lines, while other poems fall into a regimental meter.
To Miller, poetics is a system of calculating and finding value, of showing the relationships between things, both internal in the poem itself, but also in the external world. Where structure is stable, the subject matter is fluid.
The strength of Millers work is in the humanness of the narrator. Like the Psalmist, he struggles with his faith, with the brokenness of the world. Throughout the collection, the speaker movers from a France steeped in its past, to war-torn South Sudan, to his window overlooking "one tree in white bloom." No matter the locale, Millers careful selection of detail is transporting.
Greg Millers cultural contributions extend beyond his poetry. The Janice B. Trimble Professor of English at Millsaps College, he was featured in a 2011 article in Oxford American, highlighting his work with Sudanese refuges. Poems addressing Millers work with these refugees are included are several translations.
Miller makes the familiar unfamiliar. In "Capital Towers," he turns his attention to Jackson:
the Governors mansion, Statehouse, the decaying grand King Edward, and the Electric Building the last gutted like a fish, its art deco scales intact and buffed lustrous against brown marble. My eye, intent ever on artifice, wanders. I am a crow with an eye for shiny things
"The Sea Sleeps" is a wonderful poetic garb bag, showcasing the breadth of Milers experience and insight.
Greg Millers The Sea Sleeps: New & Selected Poems is an extraordinary collection of poems that celebrate and confirm the joy to be found in a life dedicated to the service of humanity. Miller, who is an authority on the poetry of British poet George Herbert, displays the same grandeur of spirit as his British predecessor in poems that are suffused with humility, respect, and love for a suffering humanity. He writes with equal ease of God, his family, the natural world, his travels, and his own work with both Sudanese refugees and the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He embodies this dazzling array of subject matter by using both traditional narrative structure and formal verse. Many of his poems are conventional sonnets with a modern twist. The book also includes his translations of Guillaume Apollinaires French and George Herberts Latin.
As a whole, Greg Millers The Sea Sleeps: New & Selected Poems is a luminous and sometimes startling examination of what it means to be a person of faith in the modern world. These poems trace Millers often turbulent, at times resigned, devotion to God and humanity.
Miller as humanitarian is fearless as he espouses an ethic of care and love as the basis of our shared existence. This is a book about the transformative power of love.
Sonja James, author of Baiting the Hook (the Bunny & the Crocodile Press, 1999), Children of the Moon (Argonne House Press, 2004), and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013)