The Road to Emmaus

Overview

Longlisted for the National Book Award



A moving, subtle sequence of narrative poems, from a sharp new poetic voice


Two strangers walk toward Emmaus. Christ has just been crucified, and they are heartbroken--until a third man joins them on the road and comforts them. ...

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The Road to Emmaus

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Overview

Longlisted for the National Book Award



A moving, subtle sequence of narrative poems, from a sharp new poetic voice


Two strangers walk toward Emmaus. Christ has just been crucified, and they are heartbroken--until a third man joins them on the road and comforts them. Once they reach Emmaus and break bread, the pair realizes they have been walking with Christ himself. But in the moment they recognize him, he disappears. Spencer Reece draws on this tender story in his mesmerizing collection--one that fearlessly confronts love and its loss, despair and its consolation, and faith in all of its various guises.

Reece's central figure in The Road to Emmaus is a middle-aged man who becomes a priest in the Episcopal Church; these poems follow him to New York City, to Honduras, to a hospital where he works as a chaplain, to a prison, to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. With language of simple, lyrical beauty that gradually accrues weight and momentum, Reece spins compelling dramas out of small moments: the speaker, living among a group of orphans, wondering "Was it true, what they said, that a priest is a house lit up?"; two men finding each other at a Coming Out Group; a man trying to become visible after a life that had depended on not being seen.

A yearning for connection, an ache of loneliness, and the instant of love disappearing before our eyes haunt this long-awaited second collection from Spencer Reece.

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/04/2014
Reece, in his follow-up to 2001's The Clerk's Tale, displays virtues may not be rare, taken individually, but are unique in their combination; writing about places—in Florida, New England, Europe—with sardonic detail, and telling stories of people who might be at home in Henry James. Reece has an eye for the bizarre, but strives to sum things up as he addresses love between men, middle age, and worldly disappointment with raw feeling, and he directs his passion not only outward and inward, but upward, towards the Christian God. In a 17-part meditation about Reece's former partner in Florida, ducks on a pond "quack-quacked,/ copulating into oblivion as if sex were religion./ When I could not reach what I loved,/ the world was rent." When Reece released his celebrated debut he was a menswear salesman in Palm Beach; he has now been ordained as an Episcopal priest (a memoir is forthcoming). That journey from one place to another, one vocation to another, informs the whole book, which encompasses self-disgust but begins and ends with compassion, from "the neonatal ICU" (where Reece served as a hospital chaplain) to a walk in a park, and a gay marriage, in New York, where "The Gospel of John was right:/ the world holds so much life." (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“These poems form a true and riveting narrative. Reading Spencer Reece makes you recall why you love poetry.” —Annie Dillard, author of The Maytrees and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“For Spencer Reece, humbling is a given. Even though his language in The Road to Emmaus, his first book since his ordination, is often remarkably inventive and sometimes formally elegant, the poems’ tone never betrays awareness of his achievement . . . There’s a quality of devotion in all of these that can make the secular seem sacred. One can truly attend through attention, the writing suggests, and the poems manage to be unwavering—almost unvarying—in the quality of their gaze.” —Jonathan Farmer, Slate

“Reece follows up his acclaimed first book with a gorgeous series of poems in verse and prose about a middle-aged man's coming to terms with religious faith, going as far as becoming a priest, a hospital chaplain, and a quiet chronicler of everyday suffering. ‘It is correct to love even at the wrong time,’ he writes of a visit to newborns in an ICU. Reece's style is straightforward, but always graceful, understatedly beautiful. These poems compassionately describe all the stops along this journey, which leads across America and elsewhere, always inviting readers to respond: ‘it was an interview, much of life is an interview.’” —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

The Road to Emmaus confirms why I have always looked to Reece’s work not only as inspiration for my own poems, but also as a guide for my soul. In this collection I follow his every footstep as he walks toward himself—toward myself—stopping to admire or fear what we see in ourselves, in others, in each other. Each poem a portrait or a self-portrait exquisitely and painstakingly drawn along the way, by the side of that proverbial road we journey with him, encountering life in all its loneliness and wholeness, its lucidness and doubt, its bitterness and glory.”
—Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of Looking for The Gulf Motel.

“These poems form a true and riveting narrative. Reading Reece makes you recall why you love poetry.” —Annie Dillard, author of The Maytrees and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“Though many of Spencer Reece's poems move forward with the narrative punch of short stories, they are packed with poetry's exquisite insight and metaphoric brilliance. These are moral poems that speak of loneliness in terms so intimate that they seem to breech loneliness; they are both documents of isolation and manifestos of love. And they achieve such embrace via lyric bursts that are arresting, evocative, and profound.” —Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon

Praise for The Clerk’s Tale

“Reece’s poems are at once splendidly fresh and deeply rooted in poetry’s rich loam . . . Reece’s striking debut yields new revelations with each reading.” Booklist 

author of The Maytrees and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard

These poems form a true and riveting narrative. Reading Reece makes you recall why you love poetry.
Slate Jonathan Farmer

For Spencer Reece, humbling is a given. Even though his language in The Road to Emmaus, his first book since his ordination, is often remarkably inventive and sometimes formally elegant, the poems' tone never betrays awareness of his achievement . . . There's a quality of devotion in all of these that can make the secular seem sacred. One can truly attend through attention, the writing suggests, and the poems manage to be unwavering--almost unvarying--in the quality of their gaze.
NPR Craig Morgan Teicher

Reece follows up his acclaimed first book with a gorgeous series of poems in verse and prose about a middle-aged man's coming to terms with religious faith, going as far as becoming a priest, a hospital chaplain, and a quiet chronicler of everyday suffering. 'It is correct to love even at the wrong time,' he writes of a visit to newborns in an ICU. Reece's style is straightforward, but always graceful, understatedly beautiful. These poems compassionately describe all the stops along this journey, which leads across America and elsewhere, always inviting readers to respond: 'it was an interview, much of life is an interview.'
author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon Andrew Solomon

Though many of Spencer Reece's poems move forward with the narrative punch of short stories, they are packed with poetry's exquisite insight and metaphoric brilliance. These are moral poems that speak of loneliness in terms so intimate that they seem to breech loneliness; they are both documents of isolation and manifestos of love. And they achieve such embrace via lyric bursts that are arresting, evocative, and profound.
Booklist

"Reece's poems are at once splendidly fresh and deeply rooted in poetry's rich loam . . . Reece's striking debut yields new revelations with each reading."
Richard Blanco

The Road to Emmaus confirms why I have always looked to Reece's work not only as inspiration for my own poems, but also as a guide for my soul. In this collection I follow his every footstep as he walks toward himself-toward myself-stopping to admire or fear what we see in ourselves, in others, in each other. Each poem a portrait or a self-portrait exquisitely and painstakingly drawn along the way, by the side of that proverbial road we journey with him, encountering life in all its loneliness and wholeness, its lucidness and doubt, its bitterness and glory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374280857
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 483,158
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Spencer Reece is a poet and priest. His first collection, The Clerk's Tale, won the Bakeless Prize in 2003. He has received an NEA grant, a Guggenheim grant, a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, a Whiting Writers' Award, and the Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship. His poems have been published in The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Scholar, and The New Republic. He served at the Honduran orphanage Our Little Roses, and works for the Bishop of Spain at the Reformed Episcopal Church, Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal.
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Table of Contents

ICU

The Manhattan Project

Monaco

The Fifth Commandment

Gilgamesh

At Thomas Merton's Grave

Margaret

1 Corinthians 13

The Road to Emmaus

The Prodigal Son

Hartford

12:20 in New York

A Few Tender Minutes

Among Schoolchildren

The Poor

My Great Grandmother's Bible

The Upper Room

Hymn

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