Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1959, and after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia, he received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. His first book, For the New Year (1984), won the Walt Whitman Award. He has received many awards, including a National Education Association fellowship and an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant. From his earliest poems, his work has been rich with Christian, particularly Catholic, imagery and thought; however, his is not standard-issue theology. Pankey explores Christianity in a lively way that makes it remain the background of his work while he is questioning and reinterpreting it.
Apocrypha as a title suggests his direction, as the Apocrypha are books that some believe to be inspired and some do not, so that the tales are not included in most Bibles. The book consists of six sections, “Nocturnes,” “Illuminations,” “Depositions,” “Arguments,” “Departures,” and “Reconstructions.” The sections can be taken as phases of faith and doubt, or as different perspectives on the same issues. “Nocturnes” features landscapes; “Illuminations” are discoveries, spiritual and otherwise; “Depositions” discusses Christ’s life and death; “Arguments” defines art; “Departures” are elegies; and “Reconstructions” are experimental revisions, or reinterpretations, of the world.
In Pankey’s vision, religion has a ghostly presence, and his poems are examinations of these ghosts and attempts to express and explain them. The speaker in Apocrypha is...
(The entire section is 651 words.)