Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY.
By this author
I could take the easy way out and tell you to read Christian Wiman, whose words are currently featured in the magazine. But instead I'm going to suggest Mary Szybist, whose 2013 collection Incarnadine won the National Book Award.
In Incarnadine, Szybist returns again and again to the Annunciation--or, it might be more accurate to say that she returns to "the annunciations," since she's interested not in a singular incursion of the eternal into the temporal but in an intersection that is more habitual. Think of Eliot's Four Quartets. There, Eliot describes epiphanic moments as "hints and guesses, / Hints followed by guesses," and goes on to claim that "The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation." For Szybist, the hint half guessed, the gift half understood is Annunciation, and this revision hints at some of the collection's major themes: motherood; the female body; the bewilderment and ecstasy of being called by love.
Like Wiman, Szybist is haunted by transcendence: yearning for something beyond her that can't be articulated completely but must be brokenly, desperately gestured towards. Take these lines from "Yet Not Consumed":
Last week, I talked briefly about the prosy-yet-still-poetic work of Spencer Reece. This week, I wanted to draw attention to a very different writer: Tracy K. Smith.
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.
The Hold Steady--my favorite band and the subject of a great post here by Eric Bugyis--just came out with a new album called Teeth Dreams. It offers all the pleasures fans have come to expect from the best bar band in America: smart lyrics, rocking music, and an epic, 9-minute song to cap things off. It also offers an example of one great writer, the band's Craig Finn, responding to another: David Foster Wallace.
Last night, the poet Christian Wiman gave the 10th annual Commonweal Lecture at Fairfield University. The talk was entitled “Hammer Is the Faith: Radical Doubt, Realistic Faith.”
A typically beautiful piece by James Wood, this time a memoiristic essay on music, home, exile, and W. G. Sebald:
To supplement the magazine’s Books of the Year post, here’s my own personal list.
Commonweal readers will be excited to hear that frequent contributor Paul Elie has launched a terrific new site called Everything That Rises. (The title comes from Flannery O'Connor's collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge.)
Here are some sample posts, though the whole site is worth checking out:
There is justice in the world! It has just been announced that one of our greatest living writers, Alice Munro, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Several Commonweal contributors, including myself, have written on Munro in the recent past:
Dominic Preziosi on Dear Life
Anthony Domestico on "Haven"
Seamus Heaney, one of the greatest poets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, has died today. He was 74.
The Guardian has some wonderful coverage--videos of Heaney reading his poetry, a slideshow of Heaney through the years, even a picture of the poet's "reading room" in his Dublin house's attic.
Here is an excerpt from "Casualty":