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National Poetry Month - Spencer Reece

To celebrate National Poetry Month, every Friday during April I will be recommending a contemporary poet worth checking out. Today, I suggest you give Spencer Reece a try.

Reece has a fascinating biography. For years, he worked as a sales associate at Brooks Brothers; his first collection of poems was called The Clerk's Tale, alluding both to Chaucer and to his own experiences in the world of commerce. Now, he's an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. His new collection of poetry, The Road to Emmaus, has just come from FSG. It's a superb work, channeling James Merrill and Elizabeth Bishop, examining the struggles of a life of vocation in language that is light, supple, and memorable. (I have a review of the book forthcoming in the magazine.)


Here is the beginning of "At Thomas Merton's Grave," which was published in Poetry in 2009. For the complete version, go here.

We can never be with loss too long.
Behind the warped door that sticks,
the wood thrush calls to the monks,
pausing upon the stone crucifix,
singing: “I am marvelous alone!”

About the Author

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY. His book on poetry and theology in the modernist period is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.



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I like it, Anthyony.  I don't understand it all, but I like it.  How about a poem-a-week after Poetry Month?  

Thank you for the introduction to Reece. I liked your selection and look forward to others. I hear bits of G. M. Hopkins -- a little of "The Windhover" and more of "As Kingfishers Catch Fire." Reece's wood thrush singing "I am marvelous alone!" echoes Hopkins' "Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:/Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;/Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,/ Crying 'What I do is me: for that I came."

Thanks for your response, Chris. I certainly agree about the Hopkins echo. Here's what I wrote in my upcoming column about the poem:

“At Thomas Merton’s Grave” contains wonderful lines on anguish (“We can never be with loss too long”), on the Hopkins-like exuberance of nature (“the wood thrush calls to the monks, / pausing atop the stone crucifix, / singing: ‘I am marvelous alone!’”), and on how time—and God’s creation—can salve, if never cure, loss: “How kind time is, / altering space / so nothing stays wrong: and light, / more new light, always arrives.”

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