Sinners Welcome

Sinners Welcome

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by Mary Karr
     
 

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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.

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Judith Kitchen
As Karr knows, her endeavor is ages old. It may be that all lyric poetry aspires to prayer. What gives Sinners Welcome its sharp edge is the poet's eloquently passionate struggle at the junction of doubt and devotion.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The author of the memoirs The Liar's Club and Cherry began as a poet; this first collection of verse since 1995's Viper Rum alternates between a familiar, unsparing autobiographical vein and a new commitment to Christian belief. Karr, a recovering alcoholic and a temperamental skeptic, entered the Catholic church in 1996, and poems about God, Christ and Christian rituals may draw most readers' attention: "Disgraceland" describes "my first communion at 40," and tries to blend Karr's characteristic acerbity with her interest in religious compassion: "You are loved, someone said. Take that and eat it." Some of the strongest of Karr's clean, direct free-verse efforts have less to do with religion than with her friends, children, parents, vexing early life. When she writes of "the winter Mother's ashes came in a Ziploc bag," fans of her prose will relate. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Poetry "was most crucially the first source of awe for me, partly because it could ease my sense of isolation," notes Karr (best known for her memoir The Liar's Club) in the essay "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer," which acts as an afterword to this collection. Karr converted to Catholicism in 1996, "after a lifetime of undiluted agnosticism," and many of the poems embrace God with an intensity born out of violence that refuses to be masked. The titles of some poems say it all: "Disgraceland," "Waiting for God: Self-Portrait as a Skeleton," or "Overdue Pardon for Mother with Knife." One of the most memorable poems, "Coathanger Bent into Halo," begins: "Gathering up my mother's clothes for the poor/ I find the coathanger that almost aborted me." It continues through a vivid description of the hypothetical abortion, ending with the hope that the same hanger can also be twisted into "a halo to crown my son's head." These poems, even more than the essay, demonstrate poetry as religion's kin. While not for the unquestioning devout, this book should stand beside works by writers like Thomas Merton or William Everson (a.k.a. Brother Antonitus) in both poetry and spiritual collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061877780
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
112
File size:
361 KB

Read an Excerpt

Sinners Welcome

Poems
By Mary Karr

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 Mary Karr
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060776544

Pathetic Fallacy

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.

Continues...


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.
Excerpts are provided byDial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mary Karr is the author of three award-winning, bestselling memoirs: The Liars’ Club, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Cherry, which was selected as a “notable book” by book reviews nationwide; and Lit, which was one of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year (and made virtually every other Best of the Year list) and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, Karr has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays. She is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.

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