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Three Mennonite Poets

Book Review by Marion Mertz

Janzen, Jean, Yorifumi Yaguchi, and David Waltner-Toews. Three Mennonite Poets. Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books, 1986.


With a sameness of regard for life, memories, and belonging, three Mennonite poets share a sense of design in being part of a community. Jean Janzen teaches piano and is a minister of worship at the College Community Mennonite Brethren Church in Clovis, California. Yorifumi Yaguchi is lay pastor of the Shalom Mennonite Church in Japan. David Waltner-Toews, son of Russian-born Mennonite parents in Manitoba, Canada, is a member of the Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario.

Jean Janzen recalls her immigrant childhood as she speaks of “Burning Apricot Wood": “...Last summer the fleshy fruit divided easily in my palm, juices burst against the roof of my mouth. And now the branches burn in my fireplace...and the last exhalations rise into the atmosphere, into the fiery kisses of the sun.”

Yorifumi Yaguchi reflects the savagery he experienced as he lived through World War II. The tension in his lines allows no forgiveness. He tells us in "Rats”: "One day a few bloodstained rats jumped suddenly out of my mouth...”

David Waltner-Toews, with a sly sense of humor, shows us the foibles of human life. Speaking of his son in “Hänschen Blues,” he says: “His tongue is a hundred dollar check written on a one dollar brain account.” To his wife in “Our Love,” he declares his love with: “I offer you the parentheses of my arms...”

Three Mennonite Poets covers a delightful variety of treats. Janzen speaks of postcards to her sister, the fitting of a wedding dress, and the Mennonites in Russia. Yaguchi tells of words turned into gravestones, trees which speak to him, and how to eat loaches. Waltner-Toews remembers Eric Reimer, who met God in heaven, gives an account of his problems in baking a blueberry pie, and recalls his father at Christmas time.

Phyllis Pellman Good, editor, praises the poets for their honesty, bare-bones truthfulness, and a disdain for pretense.

The index is handy for referral, to say to a friend, "Just a minute, let me read the one about the party. Let's see...oh yes, it's on page 48."

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