Visiting Poets

Anne Marie Macari

Anne Marie Macari

Anne Marie Macari is a questioner, a truth-seeker, a modern soothsayer. Reading her poems, writes Jean Valentine, “I think of Jane Kenyon, in her kindred humor, quietness, fierceness, and plain integrity.” Tony Hoagland has called Macari “the latest ambassador of a great lineage of strong poets whose subject is blood-knowledge.”

As the late Robert Creeley noted in his introduction to Ivory Cradle, which he chose to win the APR/Honickman First Book Prize: “The wonders here are those of perception, intuition, union, separation—all the emotions these provoke. Anger, despair, but also joy, love in its flooding recognitions, relief in the world’s insistent substance.” Macari’s second book, Gloryland, dubbed “sumptuously visceral” by Publisher’s Weekly, re-examines motherhood, death, birth, and rebirth, drawing on religious and secular creation myths to enact a feminist religion. Macari’s poems explore darkness and light, sin and forgiveness, what is lost and what is loved, delicately probing the how, the where, the why of what it is to be a woman. She wonders at the perfect empty vessel of Mary, the “transgressor” Eve, the insistence on quiet suffering—and in the process sees female spirituality with new eyes. Spiritual and bodily crescendos come with the velocity and force of intense recognition, and of redemption. But perhaps most unique to this poet is the insistence that to live fully in the body is the truest, bravest, most glorious form of worship.

Winner of Five Points’ James Dickey Prize for Poetry, Macari has published widely in journals, including The American Poetry ReviewGulfCoastBloomsbury Review, and Shenendoah. A graduate of Oberlin College, she holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence. Macari is on the core faculty at New England College Low-Residency MFA Program and the Prague Summer Workshops. She lives in New Jersey.

Select Poems

It was Mary’s blood made him, her blood
sieved through meaty placenta to feed him, grow him, though Luke wrote she was no more
than the cup he was planted in, a virgin
no man every pressed against or urged
who could barely catch eyes with the towering
angel but felt God come to her like light
through glass, like a fingerprint left on glass;
still, it’s hard to believe she never wanted
to be rid of the thing inside her, wasn’t
shamed carrying him, the child’s
perfect head pointing at the ground
and rubbing her cervix like the round earth
rubbing the thin wall of the sky that holds it.
All women reach the time of wanting it out
but not wanting it out, not knowing
what’s coming, so she must have spread
her legs in anguish because what was inside
pressing her membranes for release
was both herself and a stranger;
and she must have cried out
as the small head crowned,
splitting her, her pelvis swung
wide to push him through the wall
of this world, till what came from her
was a child lit with her own gore,
soiled, everything open so her inside
was now outside, cracked open, it means
mother to crack open, to be rent
by what comes to replace her. Such
is love—the only way. It was Mary’s
blood made him: his eyes, his tongue,
his penis, her milk fattened his legs,
made hair on the crown of his head,
she grew caul to wrap him and door
to come through and nothing, not even
crying Father, Father, to the warped
blue sky can change it.

From GLORYLAND (Alice James Books, 2005)

This time it’s true, as much as I remember
from what she told me. How she gave birth
in their tenement and it took nearly two days.
In America she was Mary, always Mary,
all those hours begging her namesake
for help, the midwife muttering about
going home, thinking this one’s dead, with
the baby wedged between her narrow hips,
a cross on the wall, her fingers gripping
the sheets. Years later I understood
what she means. How she drifted
in and out, like being on a boat in fog,
rowing, drifting, but called away from
everyone she knew toward a wilderness.
As if she had to go out alone to meet
the child and bring him through not just
with her body, but some other part of her
searching at the same time. Of course
she prayed, she knew what it smelled like
to be that close to death and she wanted to live,
to get the baby out alive, her first-born
who unlocked her for the others.
In the next room her husband and his father
heard the child cry and could finally feel
their own sickness and fear overtaking them.
Maybe they’d been drinking, or maybe it was
her father-in-law’s red hair startling her
as he came into the bedroom just when
a familiar darkness began refilling her belly.
His eyes looked wild with confusion for
his first grandson and though she knew
she was alive, he looked strange
to her as a being from the other world
and put his hands into his pockets and pulled
the cloth out so all his money fell—no
she said he threw it—onto her bed,
silver coins landing around her legs,
the white insides of his pockets flapping
out like tiny wings as his hips. He called in
all his sons—my stunned grandfather
and his unmarried brothers—and pointed
to my father sleeping on the bed all
washed and wrapped in white by
the midwife. Now, he told the men,
you work only for him.

From GLORYLAND (Alice James Books, 2005)

She says she wants to leave except her bones
are dissolving in her back so she can’t

even walk; I know she’s not writing
these phone numbers down.

Its’ her own story, I have no business,
but when she says I haven’t

told anyone, I move the receiver
from my ear, already knowing

what she’ll say as she describes her husband’s
forearm-block-of-wood slamming

her head while outside the magnolia opens
flower by flower, each branch

bouncing when the petals spring apart.

Near my window, the dove turns toward
the sun and the pink streak

on its neck surprises me, I’m touched from all
angles by pink radiation-

heartsick. And just because I once thought
I’d die, it’s not the same. If I ate

light is pressing through a tree and reaching
my window, and I am

satisfied, joyful, though I know there’s
nothing there, just light,

announcing itself, coming through.

From GLORYLAND (Alice James Books, 2005)

Poetry Center Reading

Fall 2006