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Incarnadine: Poems

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,299 ratings  ·  167 reviews
The troubadours
knew how to burn themselves through,
how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.
The spectacular was never behind them.
                        -from “The Troubadours etc.”
 
In Incarnadine, Mary Szybist restlessly seeks out places where meaning might take on new color. One poem is presented as a diagrammed sentence. Another is an abecedarium made o
...more
Paperback, 72 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Graywolf Press
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 ·  1,299 ratings  ·  167 reviews


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L
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here, There Are Blueberries

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.

What taste the bright world has, whole fields
...more
D.A.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of those books that invites endless re-reading, it is both contemporary and timeless in its vast reach.
Kevin Lawrence
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
It is smart of Mary Szybist to begin her collection with a poem called "The Toubadours Etc.," and with the opening line: "Just for this evening, let's not mock them." It self-consciously addresses a contemporary audience that I think Szybist suspects is choking on its own post-modern jadedness and so she preemptively implores us mildly not to mock. Fair enough -- this is a serious poet with a serious subject: revisiting the Annunciation and repurposing that heavily-fraught scene for some of her ...more
Ron Charles
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“All you can do is fail,” said Mary Szybist about the challenge of measuring herself against the ideal of the Virgin Mary.

“There’s something profoundly inhuman about her. She is valued because she is a mother and because she is a virgin. And I am not either. So how do you make your way in the world as a woman when you are not aspiring to and cannot be valued for either of those and do not want to be valued for either of those?”

Szybist, who won a National Book Award last year for “Incarnadine,” w
...more
Robin
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow. Wow wow wow.

I did not think I was going to enjoy this as much as I did, as her last collection, Granted, was a bit of a hit or miss for me. But this. Wow... just wow.

I find it difficult to articulate just WHY I adore this so much. There were a few in here that just completely and utterly punched me in the gut. Namely, "An Update on Mary" was so heartbreaking. Overall, this collection was so personal, so illuminating, so vulnerable and beautifully written and set up, picking from across all
...more
Dain
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I never thought anyone would rival Mary Oliver - but Szybist's poems were equally beautiful and moving.
T.D. Whittle
This is so beautiful, in so many ways. Szybist is a new favourite poet of mine, now that I have just finished both this book of poems and Granted, her first published collection. These are modern contemplative pieces that are well introduced by the two quotes Sybist has included at the beginning:
"The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation." — Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

"Repose had
...more
C
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, own, faves
A perfect book.

---

"The Troubadours Etc."

Just for this evening, let's not mock them.
Not their curtsies or cross-garters
or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens
promising, promising.

At least they had ideas about love.

All day we've driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads
through metal contraptions to eat.
We've followed West 84, and what else?
Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,
lounging sheep, telephone wires,
yellowing flowering shrubs.

Before
...more
TinHouseBooks
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): The best reading experience I had in the month of February was a live reading. Mary Szybist’s second poetry collection, Incarnadine: Poems, was released by Graywolf this month, and since Szybist is a local poet (and Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop faculty member and a personal friend), I had the pleasure of attending her book launch at Powell’s. Hearing her reinterpretations of the Annunciation and her observations of motherhood (there is a particularly h ...more
 wade
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In such a short book there is a vast variety of wonderful poems and presentation (structure). In many ways you have a feeling of new discovery as read and savor each page. I particularly liked the poems spiritual themes that are checkered throughout the book. I can certainly see why this book was so acclaimed receiving the National Book Award for poetry last year. And too think this is only Ms. Szybist's second collection of poetry!
Mary
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I know I don't read a lot of poetry, but can it be a coincidence that two of my favourite poets are now named Mary?? I think not.
Zach
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
“What I want is what I’ve always wanted. What I want is to be changed.”

This single, direct line feels like the most essential in the collection. It’s almost an echo, or an answer of sorts, to Mary Oliver’s famous question in The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I was lucky enough to take a class with Mary Szybist when I was a student at Lewis & Clark College, so I appreciated having the chance now to read her own poems many years later. Incarnadin
...more
Andrew Crocker
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it

Quiet. The rhythm of these poems didn't take immediately. Szybist's subjects are different than what I would typically read and probably even contemporary poetry as a whole. Her point of focus would seem to be religion and at first glance is, with half of the collections titles starting with 'Annunciation' after the Annunciation, yet is never so obvious. Once the rhythm caught, around the second half of the book, I found myself going back to the first part to re-read those poems I took nothing a

...more
Brittany Picardi Ruiz
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The strength of Incarnadine as a collection is a result of the muscle of the individual poems. There is an almost dizzying array of forms collected here, each uniquely suited to the content of the poem. Some poems are fairly traditional, with mid-length lines. Other poems are prosaic, with lines stretching across the wide page. One particularly spectacular poem, “How (Not) to Speak of God,” features eighteen lines arrayed in a starburst pattern with no beginning or ending. These varied forms giv ...more
World Literature Today
"Szybist’s style is unusual in its imaginative force she invigorates the genre of devotional poetry with an uncommonly light yet vibrant touch. Conflating the mythic and the ordinary, the carnal and the sacred, her poems consider the range of ways in which annunciative confrontations that transform the spirit and heal the soul might occur in modern life." - Rita Signorelli-Pappas, Princeton, New Jersey

This book was reviewed in the November 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full revi
...more
Sasha
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of my contemporary poetry Bibles, and Gorgeous as ever.

(read: June 2013, May/June 2015, July 2016. Perfect summer-season read when one is surrounded by a Pacific Northwest blaze of green and aqua colors and flowers in blue, red, pink, yellow."

Really one could about turn to any page and pick something worth underlining, fit to write down in one's notebook and press to one's chest to savor the lushness of it.

"Days go by when I do nothing but underline the damp edge of myself.

What I want is wh
...more
Harrison Gearns
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm giving her a four because she deserves it, not to indicate that I loved the book. She writes with extreme density and, simultaneously, light-heartedness. There's a texture to this book that isn't normally found in contemporary poems. She is unafraid of saying her piece. The religious thread that runs through the book is at once distrustful and accepting. Though she may or may not have found peace, the collection asks you to be at peace with the liminality of faith.

Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: owlbite
I picked this up because it was longlisted for the National Book Award in poetry in 2013.

Religious under/overtones? Yes, although I'm not always certain if they are favorable or critical. The poet Mary plays with the idea of Mary in a myriad of ways, and the poems are emotional and musing. I enjoyed them even if I wasn't always sure I knew what was going on. There is also a lot of bird imagery, which makes me think of a certain Catholic I know.
Aidan Owen
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, spirituality, poetry
A beautiful, creative, and sometimes jarring (in a good way) collection. The book is centered around poetic meditations of the Annunciation, all of them beautifully crafted. Some of these captivated me, others not so much. In general I preferred the non-Annunciation poems in the collection, many of which capture the sense of "nothing" at the heart of "everything." A very good read.
Sherry Elmer
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2019

I first read one of Szybist’s poems on the Academy of American Poets’ “Poem a Day” page. I don’t remember the poem, but apparently I liked it well enough to order her book. What I do remember is that from the poem I had read, I had thought Szybist was one of the “old, dead poets” the Academy features on weekends. The author’s photo on the back, however, indicated she was neither old nor dead. This is a good thing as it means, Lord willing, that she will have plenty of time to write more poems, s
...more
Sara Judy
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Szybist take the holy mother and sets her down gently in poem after poem. Her attention turns to the moment of holding oneself motionless, to the moment before Mary responded to the angel, the moment before touch. These are lovely, challenging poems full of blue and light.
Mallory
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I think the reason people don't read poetry is that they're scared of it; poetry can be so personal and raw and critiquing it feels like you're critiquing the poet themselves. This collection is certainly pretty; you want to read the poems aloud because the words sound good in your mouth and they bring hazy images into your mind. I wasn't exactly sure what these poems were about all of the time; I think the author, Mary, tries to connect herself to the Virgin Mary in some ways, and there are spl ...more
Vincent Scarpa
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“This is what it’s like to be alive without you here: some fall out of the world. I fall back into what I was. Days go by when I do nothing but underline the damp edge of myself. What I want is what I’ve always wanted. What I want is to be changed.” — “To Gabriela at the Donkey Sanctuary”
Dc
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
dear mary szybist: please forgive me & accept my sincere apologies for taking so long to discover you. this poetry is POETRY. ...more
Shannon
Absolutely gorgeous and amazing and perfect.
Edgar Trevizo
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Three or four poems saved it from getting just two stars. I am dissapointed with this book as a unit. I don't get its National Book Award, really.
Sian
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-uni
Me?? Enjoying poetry?? A modern day mystery 😂
Emily Ho
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of those rare books that took my heart out of my chest and it had the words written there. Achingly beautiful.
josh sorensen
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
i do not

"get": poetry

but/however/conversely

i (eye) think

it is fun when

the formatting gets

(is) weird.
Bob Lopez
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
A couple of five-star poems in an otherwise three-star collection. My reading notes:

Troubadours Etc.: Seemed to be about a road trip. Then about migrating birds. Then it feels like an unwanted end “the last of the sunlight is disappearing” and “try to come closer-/my wonderful and less than.”

Annunciation: Seems to be about grass from the perspective of the grass feeling the sun. “how many moments did it hover” and “even the shadows her chin made/never touched but reached just past”

Update on Mary
...more
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Mary Szybist is the author of a Granted, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at Lewis & Clark College and lives in Portland, Oregon. ...more

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“Without you my air tastes like nothing. For you I hold my breath.” 9 likes
“The Troubadours Etc."

Just for this evening, let's not mock them.
Not their curtsies or cross-garters
or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens
promising, promising.

At least they had ideas about love.

All day we've driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads
through metal contraptions to eat.
We've followed West 84, and what else?
Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,
lounging sheep, telephone wires,
yellowing flowering shrubs.

Before us, above us, the clouds swell, layers of them,
the violet underneath of clouds.
Every idea I have is nostalgia. Look up:
there is the sky that passenger pigeons darkened and filled—
darkened for days, eclipsing sun, eclipsing all other sound
with the thunder of their wings.
After a while, it must have seemed that they followed
not instinct or pattern but only
one another.

When they stopped, Audubon observed,
they broke the limbs of stout trees by the weight of the numbers.

And when we stop we'll follow—what?
Our hearts?

The Puritans thought that we are granted the ability to love
only through miracle,
but the troubadours knew how to burn themselves through,
how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.
The spectacular was never behind them.

Think of days of those scarlet-breasted, blue-winged birds above you.
Think of me in the garden, humming
quietly to myself in my blue dress,
a blue darker than the sky above us, a blue dark enough for storms,
though cloudless.

At what point is something gone completely?
The last of the sunlight is disappearing
even as it swells—

Just for this evening, won't you put me before you
until I'm far enough away you can
believe in me?

Then try, try to come closer—
my wonderful and less than.”
6 likes
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