Pathways to Illumination

More Reviews for Pathways to Illumination

Pathways to Illumination

Review Posted by Irina on 21FEB15

Format: Paperback

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Whoever has been to hell and back will find a strong affinity with Christy’s ‘Pathways to Illumination’. And whoever is in the grip of depression will be encouraged by Christy’s journey from darkness to light. Irrespective of the cause of depression, the road back to health is arduous.

Christy has captured those dark moments as powerfully and vividly as the moments when she started to recover through therapy, to finally take control of her life, to experience again the joy of living. Christy’s poetry reveals a gifted poet who can create unique metaphors and images that touch your senses and your heart. “You play me like fire, instead of like a violin” are the opening lines of ‘Strike a Match’; “Your words eat me alive”, she writes in ‘You Sit there’; and in ‘Sink to the Gravel Bottom’ Christy feels “like a rock thrown to sea” and disempowered, “When your posture is firm, I know that my own back bends”.

First time round, the book should be read as a novel because it is the story of her journey. I must confess that I had to put it aside for a while, the emotion was so overwhelming: I was raging inside against the emotional abuse Christy was subjected to.

When I picked up the book again, I knew I was going to witness a transformation, through therapy, a steady climb from the Gravel Bottom to the moment when in the poem ‘My Legacy Wilting’ she declares: “My heart closes like a steel gate to you now.” The last chapter, entitled ‘New Growth’, contains poems of a healed soul, accepting and loving herself, feeling alive and enjoying life. “Drizzle me in sunshine and layers of milk chocolate” she says in “Drizzle Me”, and I just love the last stanza of the same poem: “I am permanently under new ownership In a daisy field of my own Of my own doing, and The thorns are miles away – I welcome the shapes of blue skies and aspirations.”

Christy’s book shows the way out of bondage. Her poems are beautiful and I love re-reading them; now “I’m allowed” to pick them at random, according to my mood. I recommend this book of outstanding poetry to readers, both women and men, without hesitation – I’m sure they’ll appreciate it and enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 

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Review Posted by Maggie on 5FEB14

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Wow. This is such a powerful book of poems. I love that in a few words she was able to depict such a graphic story. I guarantee it will affect you on a very deep level. This is a woman’s struggle with an abusive relationship and finding her way out of it and having the strength to move forward. Not only is it about an incredibly difficult subject, that we don’t often talk about, but it is so vibrantly told. It is so vivid, visual and sensory filled. You will feel it, see it… it is so real. I gasped a couple of times as I read, my heart going out to the lost, lonely soul who was struggling to discover who she is and what her worth is. Every woman should read this (men too), I think many will identify with what Ms. Birmingham has written. And I think every woman at one time or another really struggles with her self worth and recognizing she deserves better.

In this powerfully written story through poetry, you can feel her struggle on her journey to discover herself and then to that of liking herself. I am so grateful that she has shared what she went through in such an open and raw way. It is absolutely a must read, beautifully written, forever inspiring. I highly recommend it.

 

 

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Review Posted by Graciela on 01JAN14

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Pathways To Illumination is an intimate journey through the pain of betrayal, the agony of depression, the challenges of therapy, and the beauty of the new life that emerges once the difficult work of recovering from loss starts to yield results. Through her poetry the author expresses the tumult experienced when the world we thought we knew shatters and innocence is lost. She also beautifully illuminates the hope that comes from strength replacing frailty and from clarity replacing the fog of pain.

Anyone who has ever experienced betrayal from a loved one or the abyss of self-doubt, or any form of deep hurt followed by the difficult but powerfully transforming journey of self-discovery will resonate with Ms. Birmingham’s poetic observations. I highly recommend this book to anyone recovering from loss (in a sense, that’s everyone). The words will touch you and reveal that, whatever depths life has pushed you into, you have the strength and ability to rise back up to a place of light.

 

 

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Review Posted by Julie Catherine on 11NOV13

Format: Paperback

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Pathways to Illumination, the debut poetry book by Canadian author Christy Birmingham, is the story of the author’s long journey to freedom from a toxic relationship, domestic abuse, depression and low self-esteem.  Her courage and inner light, combined with a fierce independent spirit lead her into counseling, reflection, self-discovery and ultimately, illumination.

The poems are edgy and soul-searching, and filled with contemporary imagery and sophisticated metaphors that are as poetically delicious as her delectable blog, Poetic Parfait. Christy is a realist and a survivor; and in this incredible collection pens an emotional message of struggle, redemption and hope that so many of us can relate to and learn from.

There are more incredible poems and individual stanzas in this book than are possible to mention; here are just a few that struck me most powerfully:

Sink to the Gravel Bottom –  “I feel like a rock thrown to sea, Without allowance for a moment to Jump across the waves.  My mind sinks to the gravel bottom to Fester with the other stones of your past.”

Watercolors on my Cheek (one of my favorite poems) – “I still question when the pink pill and my paintbrush grew To the sharp point that they were unable to manage me, and When I aged to become a wet watercolor print Without a frame or a hope, unable to Paint a word for help or a smile for myself.”

My Legacy Wilting – “My legacy is looking for masking tape To use to cover the holes In my bank account and in my heart, After your scissors cut Intricate designs for days at a time.”

Lost and Needs a Home – “You may think I’ve lost it, But really, I just realized where my home really is.”

Soul of Sand (another of my favorites) – “If my soul is made of sand, I hope that the shores stretch for miles With pebbles that remind me of my strength and Footprints that Speak freely about my journey.”

Christy’s poems are as amazing as she is. Her words are powerful expressions of her journey to discover her authentic self.  I could relate to so many of her poems that had  me reflecting on my own struggles. Some made me cry; others had me cheering for her. All of them were beautifully, skilfully written words of hope and encouragement to inspire the reader to discover their own pathway to illumination – knowing they are not alone in their journey.

I give Pathways to Illumination a 5-Star Rating, and would not hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre; and to readers on their own path to self-illumination.

 

 

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Review Posted by MJ on 07OCT13

Format: Paperback

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Many poets layer metaphors like onion skins and challenge you to find the meaning lying at the core, but not Christy Birmingham. The stark reality that is Pathways hits you hard and up front; the metaphors are real-life everyday events, and you won’t have to peel back many layers to understand.

What strikes me most about Pathways is the journey. One could easily dwell on the past and never move forward; never heal. Instead, Pathways takes you from one state to another, and every step along the way. In the beginning you weep, in the end you smile.

Pathways is a journey, yes. A journey out of darkness and into the light that is finding your own strength to be your own person, and to know that person is a good person. Pathways is rain on your face instead of tears, the warmth of sun instead of cold, hurtful words, a daisy field in bloom instead of bed sheets made of sand.

Read Christy’s book from beginning to end and know the path. Then go back and smell the flowers you missed along the way. Pull back the curtain and let some of her light shine onto your soul and illuminate your life.

 

 

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Review Posted by Amalia on 27AUG13

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

“Pathways to Illumination” follows the experiences of a woman, since the ending of a quite traumatic relationship, who goes through different phases.

These phases could be related with the “Hero´s Jouney” phases identified by Joseph Campbell as appearing in myths and psychological development.

It is worth noting that sociologists nowadays tend to deviate from the traditional pattern of classic hero, in favor of a more dynamic version.

Some of the newest interpretations sustain that the hero (protagonist) is first and foremost a symbolic representation of the person who experiences the story while reading, listening or watching; the relevance of the hero to the individual relies a great deal on how much similarity there is between the two.

I had this sense while I read Birmingham´s book.

Although the book is tied in parts with Christy Birmingham´s own experiences, she points out in the introduction that “it is not a memoir”, but rather a cathartic experience of growth and struggle. Therefore, the book´s effects go beyond the autobiographical frame…

The first two chapters of “Pathways to illumination”, “The Toxic Us”  and “So You Left” reveal moments when the woman and the male are still partners, followed by the end of the relationship, when the man leaves her.

Those two chapters could be related with Campbell´s phase in which:  The heroine passes the first threshold, meaning she is now committed to her inner journey and there’s no turning back.

One of the poems that exemplifies it is “Broken Joints”, where Birmingham says, “Only I do not know the vocabulary yet/ For what broke in your mind/ A double-jointed chaos that stands alert behind your smile/ How do I describe the emptiness of my mind?”

We also identify the pattern of the heroine´s phase in which she encounters challenges and faces enemies as part of her training.
As an example, we can point to the poem “A Different Place”: “Here is far from where I imagined my/ Leaves would hang./ I do not understand how I can still have life/ Given I do not possess my own roots”.

In the next sections of “Pathways to Illumination”, we follow the main character as she spirals into darkness, begins treatment, and tries to find herself.

One of these sections is “Depression”. This section relates with the Campbell´s heroine phase “Approach to the Inmost Cave,” when the heroine comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground.

To quote Birmingham´s poem, related with this stage, we can refer to the poem “Heavy Shadow”, where she writes, “Speak truth to my tears/ Shed the heavy shadow/ Gaining weight with each movement/ And tell me that tomorrow will be easier for me.”

The following section “Treatment” may associate with Campbell´s phase in which the heoine endures the supreme Ordeal.

This is the moment when the main character touches bottom. She faces the critical possibility of death. She appears to die, and then be born again.

As a poetic example here we can quote the poem “When Life Entered Me”, particularly the following verses: “Life came down the hallway with a swagger/ Although I only saw the shadow after/ The third act./ I must have been in bed at the time”.

The section “Glimmers of Hope” relates with the pattern of heroine´s stage in which she seizes the reward or treasure he’s come seeking after, after having survived death.
To give an example is Birmingham’s poem: “My Legacy Wilting”. In the poem, Birmingham´s heroine says: “Your Footprints are everywhere but/ So is the sign that bears one shape and/ One word: Trespassing./ My heart closes like a steel gate to you now.”

On the other hand; the last chapter “New Growth” can link with the last stage of Campbell’s theory, the Resurrection, which occurs  when the heroine emerges from the special world, transformed by her experience.

As an example of this phase, we can highlight Birmingham´s poem  “Drizzle Me”: ” I am permanently under new ownership/ In a daisy field/ Of my own doing/ And the thorns are miles awa / I welcome the shapes of blue skies and aspirations.”

The book follows the Pathways to illumination of a woman who still held pieces of hope even after her life shattered around her. Sometimes things happen for elusive causes, responding to a general pattern of inner self-growth… And maybe this is the case…

This is Birmingham´s heroic journey form darkness to light. And as for  us readers, her pathways also poins to the spotlight, given that her book is a poetic message of struggle, redemption and  hope…

 

 

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Review Posted by Matthew on 18AUG13

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

There are few poetry books that actually live up to their titles, often falling short of hitting their mark for one reason or another.  But the debut collection of works by Christy Birmingham, “Pathways To Illumination” certainly is not one of them. The book takes the reader for quite a ride starting off with Ms. Birmingham’s days in a rather toxic relationship which acts as a thread throughout all the pages and seems to be what holds the focus of PTI together until the final few pieces.

The one criticism which comes more as a personal preference is that many of the lines throughout the book are gender specific. They come off as very much a female anguish instead of a universal pain. One example would be “She was a piece of a puzzle that had no Corner pieces, As your eyebrows began to join together in your Angry looks at me, While your arms encircled her waist.” The idea of creating an image of incomplete and coupling it with a sense of danger to one’s self is certainly not new. Many feminists have used the same idea in their own works. Another example would be, “An alarm clock filled with puffy tongue.” Here the term “puffy tongue” really seems to soften the punch of an otherwise powerful statement in this part of the book, “Therapy.” While it would be unfair to call it, gender specific, it seems a bit too flowery for the subject and the tone of the rest of the piece, “When Life Entered Me” which focuses on the day after a nearly fatal night.

The opening stanza of the second poem, “You play me like fire, Instead of like a violin. You coax me for sweet sounds in Bed, then strike matches of anger, as You pull me into sheets of flames and trouble…” would seem to reveal hints of a potential dangerous and maybe even vaguely violent situations. Any physical violence in their relationship, however, would only be pure speculation since there is no overt mention of punches thrown. The verbal abuse and neglect is far more blatant throughout the pages, with lines like:
“I sit stiff as well, With tightened throat and heart, Nausea strong in my mouth, The same way it tasted yesterday. Your strong back matches your tone of voice, Later in the evening, as you Tell me you are my last hope for a husband That no one else would ever love me again.”

As to be expected in these sort of relationships, the nameless boyfriend does leave the scene which drives the writer into a spiraling depression and ultimately leading to a suicide attempt. The language shifts a bit from the opening section of the book where she complains bitterly of being mistreated to blaming herself for his leaving and longing for their better days together. The most notable of these thoughts for their good old days came with the lines “I long to go back to days when your hugs increased my Temperature, yet did not Play poker with my thoughts.” In one stanza she even makes a plea for his return, “I promise I will clean up after myself If only I know which moment You will step, and that Your step will be without me.”

As this sections moves on, Christy spends her days living in her head often mentioning his presence only in the context of being in a dream state pulling her further from a codependency which she mistook as love consistently referring to past interactions that had long since past. It’s here that the writer seems to deliver some of her most effective writing conveying the sensation of losing one’s self while in a state of depression,  “I watch the faces that try to see inside me and I wonder why their eyebrows wear the Pain they think I feel, like an itchy sweater. I wonder how my face should look in return. My secret is I feel nothing at all.” Here the reader is brought into Christy’s mindset if they wish to be there or not. Later pieces in these sections of the book don’t let up as she drowns herself in vodka and pills. Things to come to head for her with her suicide attempt which is not described in any great detail but only helps to push the story forward as she finds herself in therapy.

Once again, the language seems to change, from the depths of depression to bitterness and self neglect. The opening line is a good example of this, “I despise the need to run water over my body Every morning, a body that Wants to delete the ways I moved with you and Wonders how I let myself abuse its skin.” Early in this section suicide is foremost on her mind, as she feels ever more separated from her own body, “They are afraid that I will hurt my skin When what they do not realize is The moles and cancer scar on my arm Share the same outfit to which I no longer belong.” As one could well imagine, her days of dealing with treatment are far from easy, as she either questions the help she is receiving from her therapist or rejects the help offered by one young man who happens to be in her therapy group. Here Christy vividly describes the sensation of living in her head while the whole time imagining she is speaking to the person who was now her perceived object of torment, “Your skin folded around me like the tent I desired While your words shook away my roots and Replanted me in a forest of lies…” The difference in this section has opposed the earlier three is that she no longer gives an air of wanting her former boy friend back but instead seems to be coming to the realization of the brutality of their relationship. By the midpoint of the therapy section Ms. Birmingham seems to be moving away from the aim of succumbing to the grips of depression and more towards recovering, “Now, I tap creative ideas With a long inhale and exhale in the morning, With knowledge I am full of breaths and That my expiry date may not Be here yet.”

During the final sections of the book Christy focused on a new found self discovery which she described as finding real value in her life and eventually brought her to a celebration of sorts at the end of the book, with the piece What If, Where she opens with the stanza   What if We stand side-by-side around the world, Stretching our arms out at the sides and Holding hands of every color While our smiles stretch wider than Disappointments can reach?”

All in all “Pathways To Illumination” is a very solid collection of poetry using effective imagery and overall strong language, which kept this readers attention throughout the book. Christy should be very proud of her debut collection which could set the stage for a second book and should raise expectations.

 

 

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Review Posted by Raymond on 14AUG13

Format: Kindle

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Get ready to strap in for an unexpected journey.

Pathways to Illumination, Canadian author Christy D. Birmingham’s newly published book of poetry, no less than elegantly –and rapidly -carries the reader through the termination of a failed, caustic relationship of abuse and control, one woman’s deep depression,low self-esteem,  treatment, self recognition,a shift to revelations of her own power,and finally to dreams and hope for the future.

In powerful prose, Birmingham portrays a survivor in words and life itself as her book of poetry follows and offers to the reader the life of the quintessential survivor -who has come to understand herself.  It is evident she reads the life and mind of the survivor with clarity and writes of the incredible spirit beyond any difficulty experienced.

The cold brutality of abuse in a relationship of the past is presented boldly, calculatingly, systematically -in juxtaposition with Birmingham’s unique, gentle, poetic voice. There is no illusion, disillusion, or deception; only the reality and how the survivor deals with  her self-image, the violence,and her potential release into choices made, self-destructive or a determined raising of the mind into the light of illumination.

The elements Birmingham uses throughout; powerful words, imagery, her own photographs; cracks, fragmentation,  –are brilliant, unique, yet do not offer failure,but rather, a statement of powerful analysis, understanding, and ultimately,optimism.

Birmingham’s revelations appear to flow from a giant, poetic heart and are skilfully and gently offered as a universal message to others in need. She offers proof  to others desperate for hope–there is beauty, love and life to be discovered beyond what may seem to be an endless, abusive, and failed relationship. Her message and mission of love for others is accomplished well in Pathways to Illumination.

Christy D. Birmingham’s book  is a great read and highly recommended.  Don’t miss this new and unique talent.  I look forward to reading Birmingham’s next work of art.

 

 

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Review Posted by Valerie on 25JUL13

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Though I could point out repeatedly the great use of symbolism, imagery, metaphors, etc…in this work, I won’t. Instead, I reserve this review for its pure plot message. Christy Birmingham’s work bleeds through the soul. It’s real. It’s life. She will take you on a poetic journey of life, despair, and then resurrection of a heart and spirit that somehow refused to die. Abuse has no favorites and never will. Through marital abuse hit the masses, she knows its demons are unique.

Trace the longing for heartfelt intimacy that leaves her void and raped emotionally by infidelity.

“You coax me for sweet sounds in bed…words that singe at brittle ends, while you strum your body with another women’s arms.”. A desperation to reach his heart[“Just tell me how to work my way in…”] to no avail will set her on a tailspin of lost identity and despairing pleas for another chance. “I want to fit into the frame of your bedroom mirror…crawl into…mahogany wood and earn a splinter to remind you that I still exist.”. Written with a spirit of excellence, I developed a deep and abiding veneration for the work she has produced.

 

 

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Review Posted by Judith on 21JUL13

Format: Kindle

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

Christy Birmingham’s Pathways to Illumination is a poetry collection that in many ways tells every woman’s story. The author’s vivid descriptions of a healing journey will resonate with readers, even if the circumstances are not exactly the same. Written after the end of an abusive relationship, some of these poems sparkle with optimism and independence, while others eloquently express the shattering effects of depression and illness.

Ms. Birmingham’s poetry turns everyday images into rich, soul-baring verse, such as these lines from “Candy-Coated Hugs”:

You tore off the end of my licorice heart
Each time you told me to behave

In “Self-Publish,” the author — like many of us — celebrates a fresh start in the presence of daunting challenges:

I had hoped the plot was fiction, but the
Characters are real,
As real as the ink on medical bills
That rest for a moment at my writing desk.

I savored every triumph and identified with many of the sorrows in these poems. As Ms. Birmingham reminds us in “What If,” we can choose to “fill a blank page with positive words.” I highly recommend Pathways to Illumination for any woman — or man — who is searching for an inspiring, encouraging read and excellent poetry.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Pathways of Illumination in exchange for writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review; all opinions in this review are my own.

 

 

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Review Posted by Jane on 21JUL13

Format: Kindle

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

I have been a fan of Christy Birmingham’s poetry for a while and eagerly awaited the release of her book…I was not disappointed!

Christy offers a transparent look into her personal journey through a toxic relationship and the depression that ensued, offering healing and hope to the reader. My take away is that regardless of where your path may lead you…it doesn’t have to be your final destination.

 

 

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Review Posted by Janet on 16JUL13

Format: ePUB

Price: Reasonable

Recommend to others: Yes

5 Stars

This book is a collection of honest and fresh moments in the journey of a woman starting with her having been seduced into a toxic relationship and ending with her independent, happy, extricated and enlightened

The author uses original and contemporary metaphors to take us with her on her journey to enlightenment. Like little bytes of life. Birmingham steers clear of the trite in favor of multidimensional and crisp imagery and language.

Some of the poems are strong and short, packing a powerful punch. One of my favorites is
“Moments

Moments on top of moments
Shatter
Crumble
Dance
Chase
Choose

And so we layer them like blankets
And huddle close for warmth,
While we look around for safety pins
And other ways to manage the moment.
…”

And in
“MY SHADOW
While I wrestle
Expertly woven words
Ripe and ready for picking.
…”
the author parlays masterful metaphors with awesome alliteration, both of which make you want to feel the words roll off your tongue. Good poetry delights when spoken.

I am taken by her sensual use of comfort memories (“pruning my skin” in the bath) to that very experience.

I have always been tickled by the phrase “expiry date” and enjoyed her whimsical use of it in “When Life Entered Me”.

Overall, I found this to be a very pleasant read on a soft spring afternoon. I was rooting for the protagonist from the very start. By the end, I found myself smiling bigger and deeper smiles. While it has to be somewhat introspective, it still felt like moments, experiences, emotions that were very familiar to me, and included me, though I’m sure our lives have taken very different paths. It mattered to me, while reading it, whether these poems were born of personal experience or imagination.  Wonderful to realize they rose from both.

A cathartic, informative picture of what a toxic relationship can do to us, it serves as both as a wakeup call to avoid such things, as well as a healthy path to disengage from them.

Highly recommended reading!

🙂

 

 

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