In her first chapbook, I SPAT (acronym for In Spirit, Power and Truth), poet Stephanie Bridges raps, rhythms and rhymes her spiritual journey in 30 poems that range from a defense of God as judge (“Follow the Sun”) to apologies to the children she’s aborted (“Anjel” and “Angel”).
The poem section is preceded by her story "Bridges to God," told in prose. In it she chronicles her journey through various addictions and self-destructive behaviors. In the end, she explains how these became bridges to the God, who pursued her through every circumstance.
I like the transparency that comes through much of Bridges’ work. She doesn’t avoid talking about experiences and behaviors she has struggled with – rape, abortion, and various addictions. And she isn’t shy to tell on herself:
“I am a vegetarian
Engaging in carnivorous relationships
With nicotine on my lips”
Especially moving are the poems she addresses to the kids she chose not to have – and the one she birthed, but with an attitude:
“I prayed my baby dead
As I lay alone in the hospital bed
Nurses poked and doctors pervaded
But to no avail she refused to debut
Bridges’ work isn’t all dark and gloomy, though. There is also freedom and a sense of acceptance, joy and celebration:
“…No dress code
Come as you are
Leave your past at the door
Cause there’s redemption at the bar
You can dance
Party non-stop. . .”
- “G’sus N’em”
Despite a variety in subject matter, a sense of unity is achieved with the use of formatting (title, Bible verse reference, centered poem, another Bible reference and the verse quoted in full). There is also a similarity in the the rhythms and rhyme patterns that flow through much of Bridges’ work. I am reminded of rap. Many of these poems beg for out-loud performance.
The spiritual angle of the book is never subtle. The Scriptures that bracket each selection become another facet of what Bridges conveys. The book as a whole leaves no doubt who Bridges credits for her escape from an addictive lifestyle. And in her story and poems she sends the message that she continues to rely on God through the challenges of life as a single mom to four kids.
This is an accessible, gritty yet hopeful book of poems. It will appeal to those open to considering the answers given to life’s knotty problems in the Bible and the Christian faith.