Sarah Klassen — ‘The Tree of Life’

Image provided by Turnstone Press.

After months of watching the world slip away from us — from our capacity to leave our homes without fear for health and safety, to our most basic ability to reach out and touch one another — we have all grown weary. In our retreat from the outside world, it’s understandable many of us are seeking some form of spiritual fulfillment. Celebrated Mennonite author Sarah Klassen explores this yearning in her latest work, a poetry collection titled The Tree of Life.

An accomplished writer, Klassen has previously authored several other poetry collections and fiction works, including Monstrance, The Peony Season and The Wittenbergs. She has received numerous writing awards, including the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry and the Margaret McWilliams Award for popular history, one of Canada’s oldest literary awards.

In poems that cut to the heart of our search for meaning, The Tree of Life portrays the quintessential pilgrimage experience. Following the Old Testament trek across biblical wilderness through the modern Mennonite march from church pew to lunch venue, Klassen invites the reader to contemplate the concept of journeying.

The Tree of Life recognizes the tumultuous nature of being, offering glimpses of the now and the eternal, alongside a call to greater empathy. These poems highlight the sacred in everyday life and address difficult themes with compassion, tenacity and certainty.

The certainty of Klassen’s poetry is without arrogance. It humbly addresses the relationships between fear and love, man and nature as well as faith and trials.

The seriousness of these topics does not, however, weigh down these poems. Instead, the aptly named tree of life quenches the thirst of the world — weary with the abiding belief that, even amidst ambiguity, all will be well.

We are all searching for an elusive Eden, and Klassen steadily guides us in that pursuit through these poems.

Perhaps one of the most significant elements of The Tree of Life is its tendency to merge timelines with exceptional fluidity, as though the poetry is situated simultaneously in biblical and modern eras.

In a single poem, Klassen will spirit the reader from scriptural settings to contemporary contexts and back again, each more familiar than the last.

These transitions are so seamless that the timelessness of the human experience is brought to the forefront almost effortlessly.

In some way, we are all troubled, just as we are all, in some way, seeking the tree of life.

Through her poetry, Klassen offers a safe space by which we may undertake this pilgrimage.