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The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,208 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Hurrying through errands, attending a dying mother, helping her own child down the playground slide, the speaker in these poems wonders: what is the difference between the self and the soul? The secular and the sacred? Where is the kingdom of heaven? And how does one live in Ordinary Time—during those periods that are not apparently miraculous?
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published March 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published March 10th 2008)
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 ·  1,208 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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Twila Newey
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Marie Howe, 68pp. We need more poetry, all of us. Buy this little book.

My Mother's Body

Bless my mother's body, the first song of her beating
heart and her breathing, her voice, which I could dimly hear,

grew louder. From inside her body I heard almost every word she said.
Within that girl I drove to the store and back, her feet pressing

the pedals of the blue-car, her voice, first gate to the cold sunny mornings,
rain, moonlight, snow fall, dogs...

Her kidneys failed, the
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with half a brain and half a heart.
Shelves: poetry, favorites
"My life was a story, dry as pages. Seems like he should have known/enough to like them even lightly with his thumb/ But he didn't. /And I have to admit I didn't much like the idea/of telling him how."
What an awesome heartwrenching collection of poems. Marie Howe is the single most amazing contemporary poet working today. I say that with the assertion that only the most uneducated can have. I say that because I don't know enough, I only know that it is true. Did I love this as much as "What the
Peycho Kanev
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

The soul has a story that has a shape that almost no one
sees. No, no one ever does. All those kisses,
The bedroom chair that rocked with me in it, his body
his body and his and his and his.
More, I said, more
and more and more. . . . What has it come to?
Like dresses I tried on and dropped to the floor. . .
Miranda Lukeman
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really substantial and magically colloquial--I eased into these poems thinking thinking I had read this stuff before, many times over. But it's one of the few poetry books I've ended up reading straight through. It's all in the title. It's there--you'll find it. ...more
Dorianne Laux
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking. As always. More when I'm done. ...more
Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was the first collection of Howe's that I've read and she's immediately leapt onto my list of favorite poets. The ultimate compliment I can give these poems is that I wish I wrote them; Howe's style is both accessible and sophisticated and her subject matter is TRULY the Kingdom of Ordinary time. She is obsessed with finding the sacred in the profane, or moreover, eliminating the very CATEGORY of profane time and experience. Errands are holy, caring for her ailing mother is communion, and h ...more
Kate Savage
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Marie Howe is such a talented poet, and all the same I guess I itch at the lulling of white-christian-hetero poetry. I'm a horrible reader for it: she mentions being at a park with her daughter and I instantly shut off.

But I connected at moments when Howe allows for something rougher to peek through, like in the poem "Non-violence." Maybe my favorite was "What the Woman Said," which begins:

I don't want to offend anybody but I never did like
fucking all that much.

And ends:

I want to tell you everyt
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Another book that I came to through browsing actual books on actual shelves. I wouldn't have picked up Marie Howe but--hey!--I did. And she made me cry in the bathtub and that's usually a good thing and it was. ...more
Jamie Cattanach
Feb 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars? But worth the price of purchase for "Hurry" which, if not subtle, made me cry for like a full five minutes. ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the first I've read of her; makes me eager to check out "What the Living Do" soon, too. ...more
Sofia Valencia
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
I hate to say that this one really pales in comparison to “what the living do” and “magdalene”. what I love about Howe, particularly in the latter collection, is how effortlessly round & whole her poems are, so that when I read them I think yes, this poem could only have moved in such a way, and i feel as if I’ve just eaten a full dinner. the poems in this collection, however, were mostly dull and non cohesive and the surprise of where they placed me didn’t elicit any feeling in me, just made me ...more
Caitlin Conlon
Mar 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. I picked up this collection because “After The Movie” is one of my favorite poems. The whole collection followed this theme of exploring specific moments in time (I guess one could argue that’s all poetry does, but this felt different than that) which was unexpected but interesting and enjoyable! I’m looking forward to eventually reading What The Living Do which I’ve also heard wonderful things about.
Kari Yergin
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Gobble
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books, poetry
I heard an interview which Krista Tippett (host of Speaking of Faith / On Being radio shows on NPR) did with Marie Howe and I became intrigued with her story and I got to hear some of her poems and her approach to the craft of being a poet. I immediately went to my local bookstore, the Literary Bookpost, and bought a copy of the only Marie Howe book of poems they had on their shelves, "The Kingdom of Ordinary Time".

I read these poems virtually non-stop, cover-to-cover, in one sitting and I've re
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The cover of Howe’s third collection of poems is decorated with a watercolor by her daughter Grace Yi-Nan Howe and one Alex Ross. The painting has a fried egg of a sun shining over a landscape of green, purple, brown and red triangles and squares, with what look like letter T’s and I’s providing fences and trees, and maybe a couple of A’s. It’s a pleasing, vibrant, child’s view landscape threatened by a fury of scrabbled colors, reds, brown, grey filling the painting’s right side like a storm. M ...more
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club-reads
I am not ordinarily a poetry person. But I fell in love with Marie Howe's work. Our book club read "The Kingdom of Ordinary Time". It was a discovery for me.

Her poetry is made of ordinary life events...big things like the death of your mother and a brother and little things like walking down the street and seeing your reflection in a store window. This is what brought it home to me was so like life. "Poetry", says Howe, "happens in the silences."
To me her work happens in the mi
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, spirit
Her language is very ordinary and carries in it a very subtle surprise, especially when it does its delicate wondering about the character of Mary, giving her a halo of ordinariness. Interesting how nonspecific much of the language is -- but the unspecifics are well placed so that they're open but not vague, like that line in Bishop's "Fish," in the midst of such incredible specificity, when she describes the fishes eyes: "It was more like the tipping/ of an object toward the light." Like the la ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, female-writer
I still liked some of the poems in this, but the book as a whole is not as good as her other two.

I thought the best ones were about her daughter. Some of the poems in this book were very focused and strong, but most of the poems were not as intense as her poetry usually is.

A lot of the poems would start somewhere and end somewhere else. Great poems take the reader on a trip, but a lot of these poems brought me somewhere and I didn't know how I got there, or how it was related to the beginning.
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm studying modern women poets and what better teacher than the work of Marie Howe. I admire how she is able to re-examine religious and spiritual concepts that I learned as a child and give them back to me refined, renewed, and refurbished. Some of the poems ("The Massacre," for instance) address brutal subject matter with such intimacy that my breath quickened and a surge of adrenaline pumped through my blood. I loved "What the Woman Said" and "Hurry," poems that are direct hits regarding per ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, tbr-list
While many of these poems start with observation of the every day world, that is just the starting point for the journey they take into the life of the spirit. The turns of thought and language of some of these poems made me shiver.

"The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday./An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout/ breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps." "The Star Market"

"This is the life you have written," the novel tells us. "What happ
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I really liked the poems in this book. They're really odd poems but very moving. The whole book went by very quickly.

May 2015: Hey, so I read this back in 2010! Other than a few poems towards the end, I didn't remember it, but I did note in my 2010 review that "the whole book went by very quickly" so maybe that's why. Anyway, I was looking for poetry that would really move me; I've been reading a lot of poetry lately but it's not necessarily getting to my heart, and I thought this might since th
Kevin Fanning
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I found a lot to love here. Definitely want to read more by this author.


Prayer: "My days and nights pour through me like complaints / and become a story I forgot to tell."

Courage: "What happens is that when you get older you / get braver. / Then he pauses and looks at me, Are you brave?"

Non-violence: "Justice before love, I'd say years later. What I meant was justice was love."

What the Woman Said: "I was watching me, and I was someone else who / looked like she was having a good time."
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Marie Howe has some subtle kind of magic. Her language is straightforward, unassuming; you only vaguely feel the current of feeling gaining speed before it bursts wide open. The poems about her daughter warm my heart, while never being remotely precious. Even the spiritual searching, which I typically have little patience for, is so understated and so of a piece with all the other anxieties and wry pleasures of the speaker... it's human, nondenominational. Love Marie Howe, love this book. Not su ...more
Kasey Jueds
Dec 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Wow. I didn't think it was possible for me to feel as strongly about this book as I did about her previous one, What The Living Do, which is one of my poetry all-time faves. But I ended up just loving it, and appreciating (all over again) the mixture of the everyday (giving her kid a bath, buying bananas) and the spiritual (for lack of a better world) that dwells inside the quotidian and which is sometimes visible, sometimes not. The way the poems move between the two, and between a chatty sort ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
I really liked some of these poems, but some seemed kind of flat, which makes me ask, "Why is this poetry?" Some of it sounds like thoughts about what just in "I just went to the store and at the store" etc...not very poetic.
But I'm looking forward to talking about it in book club.
Stephanie Edwards
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
I loved What the Living Do and The Good Thief. I was so excited to begin this book, but it definitely fell short of my expectations.
Elizabeth Shafer
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this a very powerful book, unusual in that many of the poems have spiritual themes but written in a subtle, revelatory way.
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
My favorite Marie Howe collection so far (still have to get to What the Living Do). Poems that left me thinking, that returned in odd moments during the day to get me thinking again.
Brian Wasserman
Mar 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
should be called kingdom of unoriginal poems
Maddie Drake
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it
"My Mother's Body" makes me cry each time I read it. ...more
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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

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