Book Review: Sincerely Speaking Spiritually
Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
Like many successful self-help books, Sincerely Speaking Spiritually, celebrates verses of faith and inspiration in the Holy Word. Its author, Joseph Spence Sr., takes his role seriously as one of the Faithful, praising all things Biblical, harking back to its glorious content including the Songs of Solomon and Psalms. Filled with poetic prayers, the book offers reflection and insight during troubled times. Spence writes in his dedication that he wishes for readers to embrace God’s blessing, and seek wholeness: “…those who are dedicated to uplifting heads held low to inspire them to see a new light and day.”
“Poetic prayers, in reality, are God’s words spoken in a different form and style for great understanding and is a unique precious language of grace and reverence,” writes Spence. This collection of verse, spiritual observations, and praise songs stresses the joy of communicating with the Divine. If we examine the meaning and value of prayer in African-American literature, we will see its influence in the work of scribes such as Lucille Clifton, Alice Walker, Arna Bontemps, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Maya Angelou.
Sincerely Speaking Spiritually is compiled in five sections. The first part consists of spiritual poems in various styles, while the second and third feature prayer poems in freeform and invented forms. The fourth part includes Spence’s spiritual epulaeryu poems, a poetic form about delicious foods, which he created during meal times on his world travels. The last section has a glossary of poem forms and styles.
These soulful poems are varied in theme, force, and narrative weight. Like the poem, “My People, if We Must Die,” dedicated to Caribbean poet Claude McKay, which strikes a more militant chord: “My people, if we must die, let it not result from anger and reprisal against each other instead of sitting down in peace and love to bring about God’s blessings, understanding, tranquility, and a true quality of life.”
Of those poetic prayers included in the book, Spence has made it his literary goal to link the mind, body, and soul, as well as connect the external world to the spiritual. As a minister of the faith, he is not afraid of emotions such as love and fidelity. In “Love Is,” he spells out the Christian ties of marriage: “Love is not displaying arrogance when she is defenseless. Love is giving her a kiss when she burned out the engine in the car. Love is never giving up on her; when times are hard, never part! Love is endurance in keeping her alive with a God blessed smile. Love is seeing her in God’s image when you’re upset.”
There are also more customary verses celebrating Easter, moral choices, suicide, gun violence, and even Christmas, the Lord’s birthday. The author gives equal time to discussing souls in need of redemption and the value of prayer bringing a sense of calm where mayhem formerly existed. As Spence writes, we need faith to bring “order to a world spinning out of control,” and prayer is essential to faith and praise is essential to prayer and worship.
The author concludes by urging believers to do several critical things: “Don’t forget to pray without ceasing, stay encouraged, be strong, inspired, ingenious and resilient.” For Christians, Sincerely Speaking Spiritually is an essential book of poetic faith. It might bring calm to days that are increasingly filled with unease and chaos.