Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

One of the major themes in Apocrypha is the conflict among the grand narrative of Christianity, historical facts, and the observances of ordinary life. This work is defined by, even bound by, the most Christian of thoughts and images: icon, Bible, church music, and church art. Yet the speaker does not find the items of faith to be fruitful in the production of faith. They deceive him; they turn into other things. There is a sense that the speaker has in some way been let down by his faith; things that once were filled with joy are empty. The speaker is haunted by his lost faith and its forms.

The book is one of three by Pankey that explore the nature and difficulty of the Christian faith, the other two being The Late Romances (1997) and Cenotaph (2000). In an interview, Pankey once stated that he thinks of the three as panels in a triptych, rather than as works in a sequence. Each panel examines a particular perspective on the Christianity that molds and haunts him and examines its promises and its failure to fulfill them. The poems together suggest a spiritual vacancy in the speaker’s life, a nostalgia for lost belief, and an unwillingness to turn completely away from the past.

The doubt in the poems seems locked into step with an unwillingness to let Christianity go. The poems begin with Christian images and sometimes with the baggage of literary allusion. For instance, “The Tomb in Palestine” suggests the...

(The entire section is 566 words.)