Magnificat: Poems

Overview

Over the course of her career, Marilyn Nelson Waniek has established herself as a poet of formidable power and range, an achievement that was acknowledged in 1991, when her third book, The Homeplace, was named a finalist for the National Book Award. Her newest collection shows that she is poised for even greater recognition. Like The Homeplace, Magnificat is less a collection of individual poems than it is a dramatic narrative composed along the single centering line of a voice that is intimate and ...
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Overview

Over the course of her career, Marilyn Nelson Waniek has established herself as a poet of formidable power and range, an achievement that was acknowledged in 1991, when her third book, The Homeplace, was named a finalist for the National Book Award. Her newest collection shows that she is poised for even greater recognition. Like The Homeplace, Magnificat is less a collection of individual poems than it is a dramatic narrative composed along the single centering line of a voice that is intimate and conversational, warm and humorous - and yet also capable of a breathtaking level of passion. Many of the poems center on a man, a contemporary of the poet whom she knew and fell in love with when they were university students, but who has since become a Benedictine monk. In contemplating what her friend's spiritual life means to him, Waniek embarks on a spiritual quest of her own. The section called Plain Songs contains poems in which Waniek reflects on the small ways in which her life is blessed, even down to the joy of receiving an unexpected letter from a long-lost friend. A section of subtle, humorous poems modeled after the ancient Sayings of the Desert Fathers reveals the pithy wisdom of a monk Waniek calls Abba Jacob. Here is Abba Jacob's response when asked to confirm that a series of unlikely occurrences were miraculous:. Big deal, said Abba Jacob. Miracles happen all the time. We're here, aren't we? Miraculous may be the word readers will choose to describe Magnificat. It is at once a spiritual book about human love and a human book about spiritual love.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The subject of Waniek's (The Homeplace) fourth collection-discovering faith in God-may not be a fashionable theme. But her passion, sincerity and self-deprecating humor will engage even the most skeptical reader in the joys and frustrations of her quest for spiritual awakening. For instance, in the book's opening poems Waniek describes a 20-year longing for a friend who has become a Benedictine monk. As she contemplates his religious vocation, her feelings gradually evolve from profane love to religious devotion. In ``Plain Songs,'' the thirst for a holy knowledge competes with the tug of worldly wants and weaknesses until the poet realizes that blessedness is found in ordinary things. The book's high point is a witty series of poems featuring an imaginary desert father called Abba Jacob, a holy ``fool'' whose pithy utterances have an engaging, hard-headed wisdom (``Big deal,/ said Abba Jacob./ Miracles happen all the time./ We're here,/ aren't we?''). Like him, Waniek's accounts of her struggles with her faith are disarmingly direct and unpretentious. She has succeeded in the tricky task of describing this intensely personal (and vulnerable) experience with intelligence, spirit and humility. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807119228
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Table of Contents

Letter to a Benedictine Monk 3
Compline 6
Lost and Found 7
Incomplete Renunciation 15
Prayer on the Wing 15
Psalm 15
Tell Me a Story 16
The Dream's Wisdom 16
Matins (2:30 A.M.) 17
Dusting 18
Enigma Variations 19
Gloria 20
Palm Psalm 21
The Prayer of Silence 22
The Fruit of Faith 25
Abba Jacob and Miracles 26
Abba Jacob's Aside on Hell 27
Abba Jacob and the Theologian 28
Abba Jacob and the Businessman 28
Abba Jacob and St. Francis 29
Purgatory 30
Abba Jacob's Seven Devils 31
Abba Jacob and the Angel 32
Free Lunch 33
Hog Heaven 33
Abba Jacob and the Muse 33
Solitude as Soweto 34
The Bread of Desire 35
Abba Jacob at Bat 36
Abba Jacob Gets Down 36
A Canticle for Abba Jacob 37
Lovesong 41
Everyday Holiness 42
The War of the Heart 45
Payday Evening at My Desk 47
The Sacrament of Poverty 48
Valentine for a Bereaved Bride 49
Epithalamium and Shivaree 50
The Plotinus Suite: I No Jazz 51
The Plotinus Suite: II Behind a Descartes Bumpersticker 51
The Plotinus Suite: III To San Francisco 52
The Plotinus Suite: IV The Jesus Prayer 52
The Plotinus Suite: V Prayer of Singing Joy 53
The Plotinus Suite: VI Hermitage Breakfast 53
The Plotinus Suite: VII Sneak Preview 54
The Plotinus Suite: VIII The True Magic 54
The Plotinus Suite: IX Parable of the Moth 55
The Plotinus Suite: X Ennead I. vi 55
The Plotinus Suite: XI Union Apprehended 56
The Plotinus Suite: XII Icarus Dream 56
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