(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Collins, Floyd. “Body and Soul: Three Visionary Poets.” Gettysburg Review 13, no. 2 (Summer, 2000): 314-329. Study of contemporary visionary poetry precedes Apocrypha but provides a fine introduction to Pankey’s thematic preoccupations.

Collins, Floyd. “Mythic Resonances.” Gettysburg Review 11, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 344-361. Explores Pankey’s work together with that of others. Gives a sense of how he uses stories.

Gurley, James. “Apocrypha by Eric Pankey, Mercy by Kathleen Pierce, Riddles for a Naked Sailor by Mary Azrael, and Looking for Luck by Maxine Kumin.” Poet Lore 87, no. 3 (Fall, 1992): 53. A review that sets Apocrypha in the context of other concurrently published poetry books.

Pankey, Eric. “The Form of Concentration.” The Iowa Review 19, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 175-187. Study of Charles Wright that gives much insight into Pankey’s own poetics.