Author LaJuana Craft Ryckeley

Words from God: Rising Out of the Ashes

by LaJuana Craft Ryckeley
Writers Republic
book review by Barbara Bamberger Scott

“I have journaled through my poetry—my life.”

Poet Ryckeley has survived many challenges and here shares her experiences and feelings in the medium she carried from childhood, learned through hymns and the songs of Stephen Foster. This is a wide-ranging collection featuring hundreds of works arrayed in twelve parts, beginning with the section “Christian Poems and Studies.” The opening call to “Seize the Day’ prepares readers for the lively and thoughtful journey to come:

Relish every breath of air
Live each day with zeal and flair
When cherished moments come your way
Whisk them up and seize the day

The portion on “Growing Old” shows the poet grumbling but always with a redeeming moment to boost the mood. She counts the deficits: simple tasks are harder, dentures don’t fit right, memory is short, and eyesight is fading. But when she turns to reminiscences for solace, she realizes in pieces like “She Is Old” that “old memories are stronger” and evoke a smile. Also, Ryckeley was burdened, or blessed, for some time with raising teenagers. She examines this period in her life with wry humor:

Why do they think they know it all?
When they are only in their teens
Why are they so rude when you call?
I don’t think it was from my genes

The grouping titled “Memories” includes a child’s punishment for noisily “dangling feet” during church and a lengthy paean to “My Daddy,” recalling her father going hunting and fishing, “playing cards, or games he made from wood,” doctoring her wounds, and repairing her bike. She equally cherishes times with “My Mother,” whose plain love for God and nature was an inspiration. Poems extolling the qualities of “Women” contains this lively self-portrait of “Stressed Housewife”:

Like an unwinding ball of yarn
That is given quite a kick
Battered, I am so forlorn
Enough to make me sick

Ryckeley’s collection is introduced with a short autobiography that reveals a stalwart soul who grew up and spent much of her life in difficult circumstances. Her childhood involved family separations. Later, as a wife and mother, she was subjected to harsh conditions and abuse. All these groupings in free verse, rhythm, and rhyme include some words of faith and comfort attributable to Ryckeley’s abiding Christian view of life. In “Words and Words,” she asks to humbly remember that it is God that does the work when she offers prayers. In the poem “I Asked the Lord For,” she acknowledges that what she prays for is not always what she gets. In a vision of the desert, she finds “The Signature of God.”

Having found a quiet, comforting lifestyle at last, she now feels free to express herself in verse, with some of the works here marked with the year of their composition, indicating a many-year connection to her inner, word-embracing self. The ironic humor evinced in some of the pieces and the whimsy of her “Just Because” selections mix surprisingly well with the religiously themed selections, illustrating her emotional flexibility and genuine poetic flair. Overall, this is an aggregation for poetry lovers as well as Christians seeking new ways to explore their faith.