Book Review: Breath For The Bones

Today’s guest post is a book review by Ellen Olinger.  Ellen writes beautiful poetry (and other things) at Poems from Oostburg, Wisconsin.  Oostburg is a small town near Sheboygan (by Lake Michigan, south of Green Bay).

Before I purchased “Breath For The Bones“, I read a sample.  I looked at the reviews and recognized Ellen’s name as one of my fellow bloggers.

The review on Amazon first appeared in Time Of Singing, A Magazine of Christian Poetry, in the Fall 2008 issue. It is a print journal and also has a website at   The editor, Lora Zill, allows Ellen to reprint her work from Time of Singing (their copyright), with credit to the magazine.    Luci Shaw, author of this book, has a website at

Here is Ellen’s review:

BREATH FOR THE BONES  Art, Imagination, and Spirit:  Reflections on Creativity and Faith.  By Luci Shaw.  Published by Thomas Nelson.  Copyright 2007 by Luci Shaw.  ISBN: 978-0-8499-0334-2. 206 pages. $19.99 U.S.

Breath for the Bones  is a red hardcover with a yellow book jacket that evokes marbled paper.  At the beginning, the “Note to Readers” states: “This book is the compilation of many poignant words found in Luci Shaw’s writings, lecture notes, workshops, journals, interviews, essays, and poems.  Any gaps and spaces throughout the text reflect the quilting together of these materials to form a meaningful sequence of concepts with a thought-provoking readability” (p. vii).  As a reader of Luci Shaw’s poetry and prose for about 20 years, I am grateful to have so many of her reflections on faith and art in one place.

The Introduction begins with Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NRSV):  “Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything” (p. ix). As Luci Shaw explains, faith and art are “breath for the bones to each other” (p. x).  This is the major theme of the book, and it is developed in many ways.  Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of being a writer who is a Christian are all addressed in this book.  Some days I read this book and find an encouraging conversation with a trusted author; other days it brings me into a writer’s workshop and challenges me to work harder on craft.  I have also been blessed with new insights into the construction of poems that have helped me through difficult times–one of the rewards of rereading.

This book has two major parts.  Part One is “The Basics of Creativity: Foundations of the Creative Process.”  There are six chapters in this section.  Examples of the titles include “Entering into Beauty” and “Meeting the God of Metaphor.”  Part Two is “The Details of Creativity: Exploring the Creative Process.”  There are also six chapters in this section.  Examples of the titles include “Understanding the Shadow Side of Creativity” and “Tracing the Creative Process of Poets and Poems.”   Appendix A then offers writing assignments and discussion questions.  Appendix B is a recommended reading list for further study and enjoyment.

Breath for the Bones concludes with a long list of Acknowledgments and Notes.  Among others, Luci Shaw honors Lil Copan “…for her gift–many weeks of her own time unraveling into a coherent whole the tangled mess of essays, lectures, poems, and journal notes that I had thrust upon her. With skill and efficiency she sorted and re-ordered materials of mine in a task that had seemed impossible to me, too close as I was to my own writing” (p. 202). This expression of gratitude pictures perfectly the rich and generous nature of the entire book.  It is indeed a beautiful quilt.

Reference:  New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV).  Copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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About dogear6

I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

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5 Comments on “Book Review: Breath For The Bones”

  1. Ellen Grace Olinger Says:

    Dear Nancy,

    Thank you for reprinting this review. I taught academic writing in education (not poetry) many years ago, and tried to write this review in that style. Thanks for including the links. I hope to be a good model for proper references for young people who look to blogs for help with their classes. I found your work by linking from Patti’s A NEW DAY DAWNS blog with WordPress.

    Blessings, Ellen

    PS Sheboygan is south of Green Bay, north of Milwaukee.

  2. Ellen Grace Olinger Says:

    Thanks, Nancy. I saw a typo in my comment, in Patti’s name.


  1. Accomplishing My Goals « Living The Seasons - January 10, 2012

    […] The recent post at A Daily Life is a book review by guest Ellen Olinger, of “Breath For The Bones” by Luci Shaw. […]

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