cover image Home Course in Religion

Home Course in Religion

Gary Soto, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $8.95 (77pp) ISBN 978-0-87701-857-5

The first half of this wry, meditative collection brings us through Soto's boyhood and teenage years and his tentatively evolving spiritual and sensual awareness. There is the usual kid's stuff here--shoplifting candy bars, quote is correct/pk ``walking with Pepsi cans smashed onto my shoes''--but Soto was no ordinary kid, pondering the nature of the soul, God's intrusive omniscience and the absurdity of Catholic ritual. Soto ( Who Will Know Us? ) was also possessed of a keen imagination that sought to elaborate upon the fairly ordinary circumstances of his youth. In his teens, he began to question his physical and metaphysical identity: ``I had these feelings / I was Chinese, that I had lived before.'' In the latter half of the book, the poet searches the practical aspects of his adult life--his marriage, job, hobbies--for signs of a transcendent reality. In the end, sadly enough, he is sure of only our material status: ``We invent misery for our bodies, / Then our minds, and then, having nothing else to do, / Look for ways to make it stop.'' Soto's language is sweetly nostalgic, but never sentimental; his ruminations are full of unusual imagery that is both amusing and ingenuous. (May)