Book Review: Blame it on Huehuetenango by Michael Toy

There are at least three reasons that I should not be reading Blame it on the Huehuetenango: Poetry for the Recovering Evangelical by Michael Toy.

First: I do not consider myself an “evangelical” — recovering or otherwise.

B: I have never really considered myself a “poetry” person — whatever that means.

III: I am not that worldly as I  had to google, “Huehuetenango.”  Was it a place, a person, an exotic vegetable, a new party game, what?

Despite these three valid reasons to not read and review this book, I do know Michael Toy. I do not know him well, but in our brief interactions of the years, I have found him to be a person who is deeply inquisitive about life, genuinely interested in the worldviews of others, and passionately committed to people living and expansive and expressive faith.

So when he asked his mailing list if any of us would be willing to read and review his new book of poetry, I raised my hand enthusiastically.

So I read . . . and was moved by the sincerity of the words that Michael uses, the particular contexts that he brings to life, and the challenges he makes to Christians to actually be Christian.

From, what if jesus,

what if?
i mean really.
what if?
what if jesus was so amazingly
shockingly, casually,
present, yet provocative, artful and revolutionary

These poems are obviously meant to be larger statements about faith, Christians and the church, but we are never made to feel judged or patronized, rather we are invited into this struggle of faith in which Micheal finds himself.

From the title poem, blame it on the huehuetenango,

i don’t know much, i just know this

and then he follows it with a litany of what he needs to to do, some I resonate with, others I do not understand, but all are a part of one person’s journey of  reflection, deconstruction, and recreation.

Blame it on the Huehuetenango also contains many moments when reality is named in order to push on how the church addresses the realities of life.

Opening lines from, christian men and christian women,

christian men and christian women
often have sex, and find it to be
an excellent sort of thing to do

While there many powerful and pointed challenges to people of the Christian faith, Blame it on the Huehuetenango conveys a deep sense of hope for the world and that somehow God is moving throughout our lives and the world.

From, believing the impossible,

after having wounded and been wounded
many many times
and kind of belief in love
seems as crazy as belief in leprechauns
yet i still believe

And then the small moments when truth is simply spoken loud and clear.

From, The Word of the Lord,

you are a piece of spit,
some dirt,
and a breath.
So shut the fuck up and listen for a second.

There are moments, large and small, for everyone in this 50+ poem read and I am deeply grateful for Micheal inviting me into this world in order to gain a deeper understanding of my own. I can safely say that, Blame it on the Huehuetenango by Michael Toy will be added to my stack of go-to devotionals that sit on my shelf always ready to inspire, comfort and compel.

Thank you Michael.

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