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80 pages
Apr 2009
Crossway Books

Velvet Steel: The Joy of Being Married to You: Selections from the Poems of John Piper

by John Piper

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John Piper's 80-page book of poems titled Velvet Steel: The Joy of Being Married to You is evidence that famous people can sometimes get published even when they shouldn't. Piper is a strong theologian, an interesting public speaker, and a wise teacher of the Bible, but poetry is not his long suit (and here I am speaking as a doctor of literature and linguistics). His messages are often intimate, as in "Hosea and Gomer," with its theme of loyalty and forgiveness, but looking at the poem's two opening lines, it's evident there are problems. He writes, "And when they looked into" [a six syllable rhythm pattern of beat, beat, beat, beat, beat-beat]..."Each other's eyes, as they would do" [an eight syllable rhythm pattern of beat, beat-beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat], it's obvious Piper knows little about poetic cadence, meter, or rhyme schemes. Oddly enough, Piper does a better job of getting his message across and his art displayed when he doesn't try to write rhymed poetry, but falls back on free verse that is strong with images. In "Heartbeat the Morning of Our Marriage," he shows that just as God has given nervous men the power across centuries to rise up and become conquering warriors, so, too, will he give the nervous husband the power to get through the ceremony on the marriage day.

There are some poems that are stylistically chaotic, as in "Good Promises." The first stanza has eight random lines, with one couplet that has the rhyme words of "done" and "shun" at the end of two adjacent lines. But then the second stanza has only seven lines, and it features the word "this" in the first line supposedly rhyming with the word "bliss" in the last line. Artistically, it's a disaster, and hard to read and follow.

The book's title comes from a poem in which Piper praises his wife for being a fair but firm manager who deals with "velvet steel." Its message, as with many of the poems in this collection, is sappy, cute, nostalgic, and even gracious, but by no stretch of the imagination is it art. Ė Dr. Dennis E. Hensley,

Book Jacket:

Beyond the tough love of covenant-keeping is a warmth and tenderness that canít be denied. So while John Piperís This Momentary Marriage focuses on the theological meaning of marriage, its companion volume, Velvet Steel, reveals the rich, emotional dimension.

Within these pages Piper shares a series of poems written for his wife, NoŽl, during the first forty-two years of their relationship, starting from the day of their engagement. In it he provides readers with a taste of one manís tender affections for his wifeópoems that he hopes will fan into flame readersí affections for their own spouses and ultimately for the Maker of marriage.