The Washington Post
Sinners Welcomeby Mary Karr
Mary Karr describes herself as a black-belt sinner, and this her fourth collection of poems traces her improbable journey from the inferno of a tormented childhood into a resolutely irreverent Catholicism. Not since Saint Augustine wrote "Give me chastity, Lord but not yet!" has anyone brought such smart-assed hilarity to a conversion story./p>
Mary Karr describes herself as a black-belt sinner, and this her fourth collection of poems traces her improbable journey from the inferno of a tormented childhood into a resolutely irreverent Catholicism. Not since Saint Augustine wrote "Give me chastity, Lord but not yet!" has anyone brought such smart-assed hilarity to a conversion story.
Karr's battle is grounded in common loss (a bitter romance, friends' deaths, a teenage son's leaving home) as well as in elegies for a complicated mother. The poems disarm with the arresting humor familiar to readers of her memoirs, The Liars' Club and Cherry. An illuminating cycle of spiritual poems have roots in Karr's eight-month tutelage in Jesuit prayer practice, and as an afterword, her celebrated essay on faith weaves the tale of how the language of poetry, which relieved her suffering so young, eventually became the language of prayer. Those of us who fret that poetry denies consolation will find clear-eyed joy in this collection.
The Washington Post
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt
By Mary Karr
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright ©2006 Mary Karr
All right reserved.
When it became impossible to speak to you
due to your having died and been incinerated,
I sometimes held the uncradled phone
with its neat digits and arcane symbols (crosshatch,
black star) as if embedded in it
were some code I could punch in
to reach you. You bequeathed me
this morbid bent, Mother.
Who gives her sixth-grade daughter
Sartre's Nausea to read? All my life,
I watched you face the void,
leaning into it as a child with a black balloon
will bury her countenance
either to hide from
or to merge with that darkness.
Small wonder that still
in the invisible scrim of air
that delineates our separate worlds,
your features sometimes press toward me
all silvery from the afterlife, woven in wind,
to whisper a caution. Or your hand on my back
shoves me into my life.
Excerpted from Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr Copyright ©2006 by Mary Karr. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Mary Karr is the author of three award-winning, bestselling memoirs: The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit, as well as The Art of Memoir, also a New York Times bestseller. She received Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships for poetry and is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Honest and compelling, each poem captures both the painful reality of a given moment in Karr's life and frequently the spiritual insight that ultimately flowed from it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes confessional poetry. it is exceptional.
Not a big fan of poetry but how can you not love karr.
A very enjoyable volume. Loved her style.