Thursday 10 December 2015

Book Review: Love is the New Black, by Cameron Semmens

Review by Andrea Grigg

I’m not normally a huge poetry fan, but when I picked up Cameron Semmens’ Love is the New Black from the bookstall at our lrecent Christian Writers’ Conference, I had to have it!

My copy of Love is the New Black is a third edition. It was first published back in 2009, under the title 23 Versions of Psalm 23, but since then, Cameron has added fresh material, and I love it!

The book is divided into eight sections:
1.    Love, Loved, Loving
2.    23 Versions of Psalm 23
3.    Brilliant Bible Bits
4.    Behold, Christmas Retold
5.    Questions, Questions, Questions
6.    The Messiah’s Message on the Mount
7.    Prayers for Wonderers and Wanderers
8.    Appendices Please!

Cameron’s Christmas story, Star! Stable! Saviour! was featured on our ACRBA tour on Tuesday. (You can read that here) I adore this book, as have all the children I’ve read it to. It’s fun to read as everything begins with the letter ‘S’ – how clever is that? In the same vein, section 3 of Love is the New Black contains 12 poems, each one highlighting a letter of the alphabet.

Here’s an example from ‘Messiah Makes Meal for Massive Multitude’:

Midday, and the Messiah mentioned to his mates,
            ‘Migrate with me to a meadow
            For a moment’s meditation.’

The Messiah and the Messiah’s mates moseyed to the marina
            Where the mono-masted mono-hull was moored.

The multitude mobbing the Messiah mourned the moving,
            and enmeshed in Messiah-mania,
             moved methodically meadow-wards.

Brilliant, isn’t it?

Section 4 is particularly pertinent, being all about Christmas. While there are a number of humorous poems, there are also many thought-provoking ones. There are four under the heading of Imagine this Christmas, from the perspectives of Mary, Joseph, a shepherd and then God himself. I found them particularly touching.

My favourite section though is the one containing the versions of Psalm 23. There are many entertaining poems, like The Twenty-Third Jedi (Yoda is my shepherd, want not shall I), or The Lamb’s Side (My Lord is the shepherd, I shall not bleat) but while the poems may be funny, they tug on the heartstrings too. I read a couple to my Bible study group and there were some tears amongst the laughter.

Here are the first two stanzas of The 23rd Calm

            The Lord is my shepherd,
            I shall not stress.


           He makes me lie down in green pastures for natural aromatherapy
           He leads me to quiet waters to ensure good hydration
           He restores my stillness.
           He guides me in paths of tranquility for His name's sake.


And the first two from The Desperate Prayer of the Sheepish Believer

            Lord, I feel sheepish all the time,
            but I’m still not sure if you’re my shepherd, cos
            I still want.
           And I'm not sure I want to lie down in green pastures - 
           there could be snakes!
           And what if I slip on wet rocks beside the still waters?
           Cos I know still waters run deep
           and I'm not a very good swimmer.

See what I mean? Cameron's poems are totally relatable, entirely relevant and truly remarkable. 

I recommend you try Love is the New Black for yourself. It also would make a fabulous Christmas present!

 Andrea writes contemporary romance. Her first book A Simple Mistake was a finalist in the CALEB Awards 2012. Her second novel Too Pretty was released in 2014 by Rhiza Press. 

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  1. Thanks, Andrea, for sharing with us a book of poems and featuring another Aussie author. It's Cameron week on ACW isn't it? I never tire of exploring alternative interpretations of Psalm 23.

    1. Hi Ian - those Psalm 23 interpretations will never grow old :)

  2. Thanks for a great review Andrea. Now I just have to add another tome (quirky, funny and inspiring) to my ever-growing, groaning to-read pile.

    1. You won't regret adding this one, Jeanette! This is one I'll go back to again and again :)

  3. Thanks Andrea. I love this book. His sense of humour and his creativity amaze me. But he can also hit you between the eyes with a serious poem. Definitely one of my favourite poets.

  4. Thought you'd like this one Nola! Cameron is a talented and clever man.


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