Poetry collection offers comfort
THE WAY HOME: Poems for the Human Spirit, by Augustine Shutte. Kirkwood Press, 2017. 101pp. R120
Reviewed by Margaret Blackie
The South African theologian Augustine Shutte died just over a year ago. This short anthology of the poems he wrote in the last decade of his life has been compiled by his widow, Acilia Neale-Shutte, along with Patrick Giddy and Biddy Greene.
It is a treasure trove. The subtitle for the book, “Poems for the human spirit”, is a good indicator of what one might encounter in its pages.
The poems have been gathered in several themes, which is helpful to navigation.
I had the privilege of knowing Augustine. While I did not know him well, we had shared a few conversations about faith, which were times of authentic connection. In reading these poems I feel again the deep resonance which characterised those few meetings.
In these poems, Shutte shares thoughts on his own faith journey, both doubts and moments of beautiful encounter. There are poems on nature and cosmology, and others describing particular occasions.
The section entitled “Love story” is particularly poignant and resounds with the depth of the love he shared with Acilia.
All the poems were written in the last years of his life, so they are tinged with a flavour of frailty, of illness, of death, and memories of childhood. Although I am far from this phase of life myself (presuming a fair life expectancy), I found myself frequently pausing and savouring, to allow the words to sink into my being, rather than just wash over me.
What stays with me above all is the evidence that Shutte was a seeker. He sought God, he sought a sense of purpose, he sought love.
Those who know something of Shutte’s life will know that it had its complexities. His poems speak of a depth of desire and a savouring of beauty. It is in feeling the resonance in my own way of seeking that I find solace in his words.
Reading this book, I am reminded of my gratitude for the connection I had with Augustine — but the gift of this publication surpasses that. Those who did not know him will find the voice of a fellow sojourner.
One of the things I seek, in this journey of faith, is the voices of others who speak a similar language. It offers a moment of reassurance and comfort. I’ll certainly return to these pages when I need such balm.
And I will do so not because Shutte’s path is my path, but because in these snapshots from his journey, I receive the courage to continue walking mine.
The Way Home is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.