By Marie Howe
W.W. Norton and Company, March 28, 2017
Magdalene imagines the biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman who embodies the spiritual and sensual, alive in a contemporary landscape―hailing a cab, raising a child, listening to news on the radio. Between facing the traumas of her past and navigating daily life, the narrator of Magdalene yearns for the guidance of her spiritual teacher, a Christ figure, whose death she continues to grieve. Erotic, spirited, and searching for meaning, she is a woman striving to be the subject of her own life, fully human and alive to the sacred in the mortal world.
Each book of Marie Howe’s is a singular accomplishment, but none is as wildly alive as this. How does she see with such devastating clarity? Or allow so much of ‘what the living do’ onto the page: avoidance, longing, tenderness, resentment and desire? What makes the engine go? The wry, knowing, seeking voice of Mary Magdalene, worn like the most transparent of masks. The experience of mothering a daughter, a long arc of love building its house in the years. Howe sweeps up a life and fixes it on the page, and stands here before us, the stunned and grateful witness of all that’s taken and granted by love and time. -- Mark Doty
Gorgeous, ferocious, lacerating, sexy, and profoundly compassionate. I could swear the book emitted light when I put it down on my bedside table and turned off the lamp. -- Michael Cunningham
Marie Howe has always come as close as any poet since Rilke to touching eternity, simply by stretching out her hand and believing that something exists beyond her grasp, beyond her knowing. Here, with Magdalene, she somehow goes even deeper, into what it is to both be alive and a manifestation of the divine. I am, once again, in awe of her powers, at their fullest here. -- Nick Flynn
About the Author
Marie Howe, former poet laureate of New York, is the author of The Good Thief, What the Living Do, and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.