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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  496 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
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 deat ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jim Coughenour
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetryforliving
Over the last year I've tossed several lauded little books aside, irritated by their obsession with their own pain, exclusion, marginality – in poetry as in conversation, that is not enough. A poem, particularly a poem about personal misery, requires craft, vision and humor. In her new book of essays, Louise Glück takes a hard look at American Narcissists whose poems "culminate in that tiresome Now I see of transfigured experience" – and with that comment sharp in my mind I opened Marie Howe's M ...more
Book One of my two-book Marie Howe tour. Number two is hurtling through the mails now, and I suspect I will like it more than this, though this grew on me once I saw the conceit and set aside the notion that it was mostly about Mary Magdalene. It's about everything, really, but death as much as life, and motherhood and loss and love.

Deeper thoughts and a poem from the book are shared here:
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely exquisite yet grounded book of poems. As always, Howe's language is illuminated. These poems examine the world through Mary Magdalene's eyes. They explore desire and personal struggle.

A tremendous work of great beauty.
Kasey Jueds
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Marie Howe is a wonderfully inspiring example of a poet who doesn't "produce" a lot (I once heard her say at a conference that she feels a responsibility to stick up for poets who write very slowly, since she's one of them), but whose published work is consistently wise, awake, and beautifully realized. Magdalene may be my favorite of her books. I read it all in one sitting and experienced that paradoxical feeling I have when I'm immersed in a book I love: I wanted to keep reading, to finish... ...more
Vincent Scarpa
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'd been anticipating this collection since hearing Marie Howe read from it at AWP, and it was well worth the wait. This book cements her as one of my very favorite poets, from whom I will read anything.

“You know how it is
something has to put a stick in the spoke
to stop the wheel from spinning
and it occurs to you
what you thought was true is not at all,
and you glimpse the scrim through
which you’ve been gazing…”- “Adaptation”
Robert Vaughan
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Magnificence. Brilliance. Simplicity. Honesty. Love. One of my favorite poets, and her masterpiece.
Stephen Lamb
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From The Teacher

Can the body love beyond hunger?

You tell me what you know of desire and surrender.


These lines work as a good summation of the themes Howe ponders in her fourth collection. I'm glad to have read it, and will be sitting with these poems for a long while.

I'll treasure this book, partly because Marie Howe gave me the copy of the book she'd been reading from for the Tokens Show in Nashville after hearing my setting of the first poem in her first book, Part of Eve's Discussion, wri
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Raw with longing and a hope for guidance, these poems speak to challenges women face in life, relationships and as mothers. The poet imagines a modern-day Mary Magdalene who looks to a Christ-like figure for purpose. Clear voiced, vividly portrayed, and beautiful, this poetry collection was a joy to read.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Words fail me. I wish they'd also failed Howe. Actually, I think they did.
Craig Werner
Marie Howe does a beautiful job blending the everydayness of sex, motherhood, grief, loss and recovery, with the Biblical story of Mary Magdalene. Juxtaposing contemporary experience with mythic stories has been a staple of the literary world at least since Joyce's Ulysses, and Howe avoids the various pitfalls of literal hewing to the original, poor fit of the dimensions, etc. She moves deftly from poems that bear an obvious connection with the "source" (the Magdalen sequence running from "Magda ...more
Rachel Davies
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
one of the best poets
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
womanhood is an inescapable prison!
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Marie Howe is an icon.

Nick Flynn wrote that "Marie Howe has always come as close as any poet since Rilke to touch eternity"
Scott Pomfret
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spare, brooding, equally exacting of the narrator and reader, wonderfully evocative. If one could have guilt for sins not ones own, this collection elicited them. But at the same time the poems were personal and gruff and even reckless, which is what we ask our poets to be.
Elizabeth S
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book at tonight's poetry reading--and devoured it in one sitting. Intense, lyrical interpretation of the women who are us.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The lines that knocked me out really knocked me out
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Not my favorite of hers (because what, really, could ever compare with What the Living Do), but there are still some good poems. It's a very short book; you could read the whole thing in less than an hour. For its shortness, I was disappointed that the publisher didn't seem to think a copy editor was necessary: Three misspellings stood out to me (the poems misspelled Yahweh, lightning, and the Gobi Desert); there may have been more. People. Hire editors. It's embarrassing for you when you don't. ...more
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Marie Howe's stunningly crafted collection hangs on the persona of Mary Magdalene, but speaks universally about how complex and flawed and divine we are as humans. The poems bleed a range of emotions. Their ordering is flawless. As reviewer Michael Cunningham says in the book jacket: "...I could swear the book emitted light when I put it down on my bedside table and turned off the lamp."
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of pieces in here that stick with you. A few of my favorites:
"The Anima Alone"
"On Men, Their Bodies"
"Magdalene and the Interior Life"
"Waiting at the River"
"The Visit"
"What the Silence Says"
"One Day"
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Every ten years comes a slender, insightful collection of memorable poems from Maria Howe. Each new volume is a cause to celebrate; it engages you—mind, body and soul. She tackles spirituality, belief, lust, love, friendship, family and ideas from life to death, sacrifice to suffering, wonder to memory, addiction to mortality. She does so in straightforward language with complex daring.
“He said something like, You’re going to be ok now,
or, It’s been difficult hasn’t it,

but what he said mattered
Claire Keyes
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent book of poetry. I had heard Marie Howe read at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May 2017 and I was impressed by her. Once I started reading Magdalene, I couldn't put it down. The poems are double-spaced so there is not much text on a page and I found myself moving from one poem to another with great ease. She doesn't put barriers up between the poem and the reader, but there is something profound and spiritual going on in these poems that I found compelling. In many ways, the poems ...more
Patti K
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This new volume of poems by Howe is just as compelling as her
previous works. The volume is a study of who Mary Magdalene might
have been as a biblical figure and as a contemporary one. The tension
between the two is invigorating and fresh. The narrator yearns for
guidance or some understanding from both of these roles. She wants
a mentor. She thinks she had one, but feels as if she was mistaken.
Uncertainty is woven throughout. As an Addict, "I liked Hell,/I liked
to go there alone/relieved to lie in
Juli Anna
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
This collection somehow lacked conviction for me, and left me cold. While Howe's poems can be deep in feeling (especially when writing about topics such as grief), these seemed shallowly felt. I thought Magdalene was somewhat flimsily characterized, and the eroticism of these poems--often a forte of Howe's--was often self-indulgent and borderline corny. While there were some gems in here worth seeking out, I did not like this collection as well as I could have.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a really solid collection of poems. Admittedly, I'm too much of a traditionalist (and a prude) to truly appreciate the Jesus erotica elements, but some evocative imagery and great lines. Interspersed with her Mary Magdalene poems are poetry, are poems about daily life, children and motherhood. Her poem News which juxtaposes little girls playing mermaids with a news broadcast is my favorite of these poems.
Abigail Munson
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked it. I didn’t love it. That might just be bc recently I’ve been reading a lot of poetry that invokes religious imagery and characterization juxtaposing and inserting it into modern and mundane life. Howe has a great style, I like how simple it is without losing depth. One thing I wasn’t a fan of was the length of her lines they rambled a little and lost their original strength. I think I should read it again after I take a break from this style of poetry so I can better appreciate it.
Eva Silverman
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2017-ideas, nypl, favs
stunning. sometimes i don't feel as connected to poetry as i do to prose, but this book showed that poetry can let a narrative unfold in a unique, rewarding way. these poems are all interconnected and tell the story of a life dexterously, shedding light on the small details and the big revelations that make up a life. idk how to coherently describe how revelatory of a reading experience this was for me, but it was so so good and i highly recommend.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, w
Marie Howe is easily my favorite living poet. There are some books so good that you have to read them in one sitting; this is so good that I couldn’t. I had to stop and process the poems, to let them breathe and live within me for a while before moving on. Marie Howe simultaneously gives me confidence that someday I can reach a level of communication ability where even the shortest poems burn and sway, while making me despair that I’m not even close to there yet. Every word is an inspiration.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A perfect little gem of a book. I picked it up to read one poem, and finished it in a greedy gulp. I will be revisiting at a slower pace, to be sure.

"He said something like, You're going to be ok now,
or, It's been difficult hasn't it,

but what he said mattered only a little.
We met--in our mutual gaze--in between
a third place I'd not yet been." (from "The Affliction.")
Kelsey Stoner
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Marie Howe's poetry is haunting, and she possesses the unique capability to make even the most modern mundanities seem poetic. While this isn't my favorite complete collection of hers, there are several standout poems in this collection, including my personal favorite "Magdalene- The Seven Devils."
Deb Nowack
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Howe begins this books of poems as written through the eyes of a contemporary Mary Magdalene. I see her on a street corner in the rain with a cigarette hanging from her lips, a too-short skirt, a run in her nylons, and heavy black eyeliner. She looks older than she is. Poems both pure and profane.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add the cover 2 13 Apr 15, 2018 02:47PM  
Born in Rochester, New York, Marie Howe attended Sacred Heart Convent School and the University of Windsor. She received an MFA from Columbia University, where she studied with Stanley Kunitz, whom she refers to as “my true teacher.”

Howe has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia, and NYU. She co-edited (with Michael Klein) the essay anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing fr
“I liked Hell,
I liked to go there alone
relieved to lie in the wreckage, ruined, physically undone.
The worst had happened. What else could hurt me then?
I thought it was the worst, thought nothing worse could come.
Then nothing did, and no one.”
“Someone hanging clothes on a line between buildings, someone shaking out a rug from an open window might have heard hammering, one or two blocks away and thought little or nothing of it.” 1 likes
More quotes…