Magdalene by Marie Howe

Reviewed by Jessica Tanck

Cover art

Magdalene: Poems, by Marie Howe. Click to view catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3558.O8925 A6 2018

Marie Howe’s Magdalene (2017) imagines the Biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman in the present-day. Brilliant and sensual, yearning and thoughtful, Howe’s Magdalene is dignified, human, and cut with want. This is a book for those with a taste for the biblical and sensual, those who long for complexity, depth, and revelation, who cherish the plainspoken over the ornate. Howe’s seemingly unadorned verse presents thought, feeling, and scenes in a way that is somehow both intimate and mythical, delivering statements and descriptions that resound with both emotional truth and the lightning of revelation:

“Years holding on to a rope/ that wasn’t there, always sorry/ righteous and wrong.”

“The pills were the floorboards/ and the bright lights that made what’s what possible.”

“I liked Hell, I liked to go there alone/ relieved to lie in the wreckage, ruined, physically undone./ The worst had happened. What else could harm me then?/ I thought it was the worst, thought nothing worse could come. / Then nothing did, and no one.”

Whether you are a first-time reader of poetry or a long-time lover of it, whether you have much or little time to spend reading, you will burn through this book of poems.

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