Journey: New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999

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Kathleen Norris has touched readers throughout America with her thoughtful and provocative memoirs of faith: Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, The Cloister Walk, and Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. She is equally admired for her poetry of engagement with the spiritual world and its landscapes. Journey includes poems from three previous books spanning thirty years, along with a generous selection of new work that continues her radically individual celebration of the sacredness of life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Norris, whose poetry collections include The Middle of the World, reached a wide audience with her prose memoir Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. Readers of that book will recognize here her closely considered relationship with the prairie; her persistent and delighted spiritual questioning; her respectful identification with other women both ordinary and extraordinary; and her joy in stories. . . . Norris’s poems are characterized by generosity and compassion, as plain and spacious as the prairie life that has engendered many of them.”
Publishers Weekly

“She has inherited [Emily] Dickinson’s view that the thing that inspires is the thing to be celebrated. The reader can often sense Ms. Norris’s sheer pleasure in writing.”
New York Times Book Review

Library Journal
"God is at work/ in us, close/ to the bone" writes Norris, a poet perhaps best known for her three prose works (Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, 1993; The Cloister Walk, 1996; and Amazing Grace, 1998). These volumes found their inspiration in the spiritual renewal experienced by Norris through farm life, ministry to a small Midwestern church community, and extended retreats in a Benedictine monastery. Now she has brought together a well-rounded collection of her poetry spanning 30 years. Here are poems, arranged chronologically in four sections each beginning with a verse from the Song of Solomon, that tenderly describe an event or scene, examine it, and conclude with a flash of seemingly unrelated insight, leaving profound questions in the reader's heart: "Now the new mother, that leaky vessel,/ begins to nurse her child,/ beginning the long goodbye." Carrying her readers along on her deeply Christian journey, Norris avoids spiritual certainty and preachiness, remaining ever the seeker. Her poems are lyrical, accessible, and hauntingly touching to read and to reread. Highly recommended. Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A chronicle of Norris's inner and outer travels through Minnesota and the Dakotas, and how her settling there inspired a realization that one frequently winds up where one ought to be. Yet even in the "vertical and bottomless" urban badlands where the "clouds roll over Manhattan the way the earth settles on the dead," there is suggested the bleak horizon-to-horizon panorama of the real Badlands, where "everything has been purified by loneliness." But these are neither abstract nor sere poems. They are rich in apt, concrete detail and prickling with bodily sensations. Everything throbs with the music of living. Ordinary objects become imbued with their owners' personae. It is people, stranded between past and future without ever experiencing a single moment in the present, Norris warns in her "Evaporation Poems," who "must be careful not to disappear." Espousing a Christianity shorn of its comforts and often stripped to its essentials, she pays homage to the wisdom of the body. She does so with humor that is more street-smart than sentimental, advising newcomers to earth (in "Excerpts from the Angel Handbook") that there are those "not content unless their teeth are full of feathers." One's passage through life involves negotiating one's way through the body. The simultaneously sensual and deeply spiritual qualities of Norris's verse bring to mind the once outdated notion of the body as a temple of the spirit. Journey is about growth and striving for enlightenment, not about having attained it—and these poems celebrate both the physicality of the body and the spiritual qualities inherent in a simplified life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822957614
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,402,186
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris’s books of poetry include The Middle of the World, Little Girls in Church, and The Astronomy of Love. In addition to her best-selling memoirs (all listed as New York Times Notable Books), her most recent prose works include Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work,” The Virgin of Bennington (a memoir) and a children’s book on Sts. Benedict and Scholastica (in collaboration with the artist Tomie de Paola) are forthcoming. Her honors include grants from the Echoing Green Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts. She lives in South Dakota and Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Table of Contents

A Prayer to Eve 3
Celebrations 7
The Angel 8
Tomorrow 9
Falling Off 10
Running through Sleep 11
Evaporation Poems 12
Stomach 14
Eve Alone, in the Garden of Eden 15
Listening to Music Alone 16
Blue Mountain 17
Bean Song 18
Excerpts from the Angel Handbook 19
Space Walk/Self Portrait 22
Kansas Anymore 24
At a Window, New York City 25
On the Northwest Hiawatha 29
Inheritance 31
Cows 33
On the Land 34
New Year's Eve in Bismarck, North Dakota 35
The Dancers 36
The Middle of the World 37
Calentures 38
A Place on Grand River 39
Getting Lucky 41
The Year of Common Things 43
Harvest 44
Dust 45
Washing Dishes Late at Night 47
A Poem about Faith 48
For My Aunt Mary 53
Perennials 55
Pommes de Terre 56
Housecleaning 58
The Wedding at the Courthouse 60
Young Lovers with Pizza 62
Eve of St. Agnes in the High School Gym 63
The Blue Light 64
Numbers 66
The Age of Reason 68
Little Girls in Church 70
The Gift of Tears 72
How I Came to Drink My Grandmother's Piano 74
The Monastery Orchard in Early Spring 75
Land of the Living 76
A Letter to Paul Carroll, Who Said I Must Become a Catholic so That I Can Pray for Him 78
"The Sky is Full of Blue and Full of the Mind of God" 80
The Wine 81
The Astronomy of Love 83
Why the Image of a Starry Womb Is Not Poetic Claptrap but Good Science 85
Taking the Blue 86
Cinderella in Kalamazoo 89
Giveaway 91
Ascension 93
The Ignominy of the Living 94
Epiphany 96
A. J.'s Passage 97
Mysteries of the Incarnation 98
Luke 14: A Commentary 101
Return of Swamp Thing 102
Three Wisdom Poems 104
Children of Divorce 107
Afterward 109
The Companionable Dark 111
What Song, Then? 113
Goodness 114
Naming the Living God 115
Emily in Choir 116
The Tolling 117
Hide and Seek 119
La Vierge Romane 121
The Room 123
Who Do You Say That I Am? 124
Nutrition 125
The Presbyterian Women Serve Coffee at the Home 126
Gold of Ophir 127
Body and Blood 128
Acknowledgments 130
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