I don’t read a lot of Mormon fiction, because—let’s be honest here—it’s pretty cheesy. For some reason, Mormon authors have a really hard time plugging their religion into any story-line or character without bearing fervent testimony that they know this church is true. (Usually with the phrase “every fiber of my being” somewhere in there.) And while there’s a time and place for testimony, some random paragraph in the middle of your adventure/romance story probably isn’t it.
I digress. The point is, Psalm & Selah was not cheesy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the appropriate use of Mormon culture, I was also impressed with the quality of writing.
Psalm & Selah, by Mark Bennion, is a poetry collection based on the author’s readings of the Book of Mormon. And while most Mormon authors would probably use the medium to talk about how much the scriptures mean to them, Bennion uses the scriptures to inspire poems from the perspective of the characters in them. And he’s a very good poet.
He writes poems about what it would be like to leave Jerusalem and wander in the wilderness for years. He writes what it would feel like to be the prophet’s “wicked” brother. He writes from the perspective of women who only show up for a verse or two, and has profound insights into what it might be like to be the only person in town who believes in God. And he is more concerned with the poetic aspect with preaching, which makes the poetry much more genuine.
If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon, you probably won’t understand most of the references in this book. But if you have read the Book of Mormon—regardless of whether you found any spiritual quality in it—you should read this collection. It’s one of the better poetry collections I’ve ever stumbled upon. And it’s flat-out the best Mormon fiction I’ve ever read. ♦