SoulBurgers book by Christina Reihill
SoulBurgers narrative tells of a 15 year journey in soul, inspired by the most famous soul journey in the world, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
Its opens with a 3,500 word introduction explaining the journey ahead – a contemporary odyssey in verse, chronicling the soul’s journey from rock bottom to freedom.
The odyssey takes its reader from the harrowing ‘hell’ of addiction and self-loathing upwards through the ‘purgatorial’ process of hope to the light of ‘paradise’ in rich sculpted poetry and prose.
Christina Reihill’s vision for this book found its opening lines after she saw a drunken woman in a restaurant, who reminded her of herself. The woman, a ‘wooden doll’, was wearing a red hat and downing red wine. Over ten years, while she trained and worked as a psychotherapist, Christina articulated similar raw emotional landscapes and mapped these onto Dante’s central theme, to know love.
Christina’s vision was to produce a book that showed, not told, its readers the way to personal freedom. “At the time, I trusted no-one, least of all myself and while there were hundreds of books about this journey – none showed its hard trek, footprint by footprint, like Dante 700 years ago. ”
So like Livingstone in search of The Nile, in what he called “the open wound of Africa”,Christina embarked on the same journey as the medieval poet to provide a contemporary map of his journey to gold in human consciousness: the place of peace, happiness, justice, joy, hilarity and forgiveness.
And Christina achieves this by stripping and sculpting language in the context of human consciences, informed by the classics up to today’s deeper understanding of the human psyche( soul)
The opening poem of SoulBurgers sets the tone.
‘A red cloche hat
Eyes pooled in sadness
I sat living a lie’
Just as Dante highlights our most narcissistic features and tosses them into a cauldron of punishments (pride, greed, envy and lust et alia) Christina focuses a more sober theme to know love without religious or political commentary.
SoulBurgers strips the Italian’s poet’s elaborate descriptions to reveal the universal emotions of this profound journey in soul . “I describe SoulBurgers as a rapper’s version of The Divine Comedy” says Reihill. “I spent 6 years studying his text and another five years with a series of teachers, showing me the road through its vast and complex journey in soul. Dante’s pilgrim poet had three guides for his ten year journey – I needed a lot more!”
In the first part of SoulBurgers, ‘The Sleep’, her pilgrim’s poet admits defeat in her narcissistic indulgences as she recognises that she is starved of warmth and fulfilment, and turned to false comforts
‘Longing for Joys of dope’ (Compulsion)
Her pilgrim’s progress from victim to survivor and far beyond becomes apparent in the third leg of her journey ‘The Dawn’, where she learns what love is and turns to human love instead of its many illusions, to know herself and experience wholeness.
‘In all my thirst and longing breath
I hugged you to my being’ (The Alchemist)
Like the Comedy, SoulBurgers uses the overwhelming power of poetry to release inner anguish. As readers we understand the emotions that the poet describes: etched from the oak of soul, the language seeps into the marrow of our bones. “The Emily Dickinson of Addiction” is how novelist Marian Keyes describes her.
As Christina’s pilgrim poet tells of the testing road to discovering and uncovering herself, the reader experiences the journey from ‘draining ache’ and ‘punctured love’ to ‘hearing magic flutes mid-air’.
Dante describes the peak of human expience as I’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle “the love that moves the sun and all the stars – the place where we can rest in the presence of God.
Christina captures this place in her last poem.
Is it possible to understand love, or only what it is to be unloved? Would we really exist without love? Soul Burgers is a modern layman’s version, in modern layman’s language, of the same journey that Dante made 700 years ago – a journey to understanding the core of human existence and the power of love.
Marianne Gunne O’Connor is Christina’s literary agent http://www.writing.ie/resources/literary-super-agent-marianne-gunn-oconnor/
Below Christina’s review of AN Wilson’s biography of Dante Alighieri