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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Published September 1, 1994
by Louisiana State University Press.
Literature & Fiction.