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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

Review: Cathedral by Maya Joelle

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

If I wasn’t into poetry before, I am now.

I’ve read a few of Maya’s poems on her blog—“Borrowed Grief” is the one I remember the most—so I knew even before I began this anthology that she had talent.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth of it.

These poems...the prose...the emotions behind it all literally made my heart ache. I didn’t want to put it down for even a second (even though I did, because my sister wet the bed while I was reading last night); it just drew me in and consumed me until I felt like I was a part of these poems.

That’s what’s crazy. Connecting with the reflection of someone else’s heart and their experiences—most of which I don’t share—up to the point where I feel so invested and integrated into it.

(Okay, seriously, I just thought of “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake, and that distresses me.)

So, for this review, instead of trying to sum up all of these different—and yet so cohesive—pieces in one short “I enjoyed it,” I’d like to take a moment to give you my thoughts on each individual piece.

  • borrowed grief—this was amazing on its own, but knowing the story behind it and how/why Maya felt this way just takes it to a whole new level and really gives me a great admiration for Maya and her heart. I honestly borrowed her borrowed grief while reading this poem.

  • coming—man, reading from Death’s point-of-view is not something you wanna do before bed, and yet Maya captures the dark, greedy cravings and vile intentions of Death so expertly, almost making it beautiful. In this piece, she speaks more of spiritual death and sin, and the way she portrays that is so authentic and almost convicting.

  • ghosts—though short-lived, the words Maya uses in this poem immediately invokes the most lovely imagery of ancient ruins and haunted castles. The symbolism of how memories, regrets, and sin haunt the soul much like a ghost follows up the previous poem almost like a reply.

  • enough {I}—I remember reading this one on her blog several months ago, but it didn’t really strike me until now how much I relate, with how several of my friendships in the past have eroded away...and yet I felt no true grief. What I love the most is how she took something that should have been a symbol of death and turned it into a symbol of grace, love, and eternity.

  • shipwreck—of course, I would love the piece about a shipwreck, wouldn’t I? But this wasn’t your typical shipwreck—it was self-imposed, intentional, and I love how Maya used that. It’s a bit like giving up, giving in, in some way symbolic of killing oneself—whether literally or metaphorically—how one would when they had no hope for life and no true desire to weather the storms. The shipwreck one would bring upon themselves if they didn’t have Jesus to guide them. Despite the depressing undertones, I love the prose and how it reads like a novel...and yet it doesn’t. How she utilizes simple sentences to create something so vivid and lively.

  • treasure—lay up your treasures in Heaven, the Bible says, and in this poem Maya asks what your treasures are, drawing from that verse in a way that makes one stop and think. Especially after the previous piece. The pirate vibes are off the charts at this point, people.

  • you tell me, rejoice {I}—I could go on about this piece...but what strikes me the most is the chaos of it. The lines of three sentences, followed by a one-word line. The rush of unfiltered thoughts, followed by a shattering confession. Then...and yet/you tell me/to rejoice. The poignancy of that statement, halting the chaos like a lifted hand, really tied this piece together, and I love how real that was, how it followed the thought process.

  • to the broken ones—y’all, the allegory in this was absolutely amazing. I loved it, how it was both this ethereal analogy and yet such a physical thing. If that makes sense. Ach, go read it!

  • ring—autumn meets Heaven. Does it get any better than that? No, it doesn’t. I love how Maya entwined the walk-in-the-forest vibes with a simple yet profound worshipfulness (let’s just pretend that’s a word), almost like she was stepping into the Lord’s presence.

  • brave—as a reader and writer, I adored this poem and the idea that libraries are brave.

  • fire and awe—again, Maya astounds me with her understanding and just the beauty of her thoughts.

  • enough {II}—God is enough. The words I think we all need to hear, written as a bit of a poem, a reflection of the author’s personal experience, and a bit of a letter to a broken heart. Honestly, my hearts just clenches reading over this again as I think of all the people I know—especially some of my friends—who need to hear this.

  • piano recital—since my mom plays the piano and I’ve been dabbling a bit, I really connect with this one and the feeling of awe at watching someone’s hands fly across the keys in a wild dance that I doubt I could ever imitate.

  • beacon—three lines, and yet they hold such profound wisdom.

  • setting sail—I’m not sure if Maya meant this to follow up “Shipwreck,” but I think it does. And I love it.

  • goodbyes—this one I also read previously, and I wonder if some of it’s entwine with “Enough {I}.” I’m not sure, but I do know that these poems and verses are charged with such tangible emotion that I just want to reach out to Maya and give her a hug.

  • Odysseus—as strange as it sounds...this was my favorite. The moment I saw the title, I just grinned to myself, since I’m working (slowly) on reading Homer’s Odyssey and LOVED how Maya correlated it with Christ and just...augh. The beauty of this...the heartrending beauty...the way it echoes God’s many laments in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others of how Israel had turned away...amazing.

  • walk around the pasture—how simple. A glimpse into the everyday. enchanting. And the sweetness of little Sayer reminds me of my own younger siblings.

  • dust—the Jack and the Beanstalk vibes were definitely here, but Maya turned this into a lovely story of creativity and dreams and new beginnings and courage. I love it.

  • you tell me, rejoice {II}—a continuation of the first, I love how this shifts from the pain in the first piece to disbelief. And, of course, better things, but I’m pretty sure you can spoil poetry just as good as you can novels. So I’ll move on now...

  • crown him—a poem based off of a hymn. Nuff said. (If you know me well, you’ll know I love hymns. So, yeah, now there’s really been enough said.)

All in all, there really aren’t words to express the depth and beauty of this collection and my awe and appreciation for Maya’s talent and how she so expressly and joyously uses it for the Lord. This was truly an honor and a privilege to read, one that I never would have expected or felt worthy to ask for.


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About the Author

Maya Joelle is a wordsmith, bookdragon, and avid forest enthusiast from Michigan. In addition to poetry, she writes high fantasy novels and short stories that turn into novels. When she’s not writing or studying, she is often found marveling at the beauty of creation through the wonders of nature, music, and friendship. She writes poems to remind herself and others of God’s goodness amidst pain and sorrow, for the glory of the Author who knows the ending of her story. All the important links:

Bookishly Yours,


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