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Sinners Welcome

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  989 ratings  ·  134 reviews
Mary Karr describes herself as a black-belt sinner, and this -- her fourth collection of poems --traces her improbable journey from the inferno of a tormented childhood into a resolutely irreverent Catholicism. Not since Saint Augustine wrote "Give me chastity, Lord -- but not yet!" has anyone brought such smart-assed hilarity to a conversion story.

Karr's battle is grounde
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Harper
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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This collection includes one of my favorites, one I use as a nice challenge poem in the classroom, "Revelations in the Key of K. It's number two in the line-up here.

What surprised me is how many of the poems deal with religion--specifically Karr's conversion to Catholicism as a lifeline in her struggle with alcoholism. The book even ends with an essay specifically on this topic, one called "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer."

Granted, those poems weren't exactly favorites, and granted also that fe
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
"There’s always joy in seeing how others see, even when it also entails a stab of pain."

I'm no poetry expert, but I really liked this collection. Most of the poems are very dark; many about the death of her eccentric mother. Some of the less dismal were are about her son. I liked those the most.

Published three years apart, this is a great companion to Karr's third memoir, Lit.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2016, poetry
I always read poetry twice before reviewing; I feel like reading a poem only once is not enough to really absorb it. This is Mary Karr's fourth book of poems, and I suspect I might like her earlier poems more, because the themes in this volume are outside my own experience. These are post-Catholic conversion, post-motherhood, and many tribute poems to friends who have passed. Since I read her childhood memoirs, The Liars' Club and Cherry, the poems about her parents were interesting - there are ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Two memoirs. One poetry book. One writing book. Yes, it was a Mary Karr week.

My Mary Karr reading frenzy all started quite innocently. I took a writing class last summer at Inprint in Houston. Our teacher told us Mary Karr was coming to Houston in September. I spontaneously decided to buy a ticket, vaguely remembering that I'd read her first memoir, Liar's Club, back twenty years ago or so. When the date of Karr's reading approached, I was exhausted by all the beginning-of-the-year stuff we tea
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
So many of these incredible poems compelled me to read them several times before moving on to the next poem. Several of the poems brought tears to my eyes. Karr has the ability to move a reader without gimmicks in her poems. No Hallmark-style manipulation of the reader's emotion. Just daring to write honestly about her life and her spirituality in the face of all the reasons there are to NOT believe in a higher power... ...more
Amy Neftzger
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
A beautiful collection of poetry that is lyrical and thought provoking. The pieces cover different topics pertaining to our modern world and how we can find salvation in some of the most unlikely places because God really is everywhere - not just in the squeaky clean segments of life. The poetry is moving and the essay at the end completes the ideas and draws the book to a close neatly. This is one of those books that I think I will rate more highly the more times I read it. Well worth your time ...more
robin friedman
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Poet's Conversion

In this short volume of confessional poetry, Mary Karr describes her difficult conversion from irreverence and agnosticism to Catholicism. Karr is Professor of English at Syracuse University, the author of several earlier books of poetry and memoirs, and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. The volume also includes an Afterword consisting of an essay Karr wrote for "Poetry" magazine: "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer" in which she describes in prose her religious conversi
Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Mary Karr shares my mother's name and birth year and strength and fragility. That's about where the comparisons end, as my mother is a lifelong conservative Wesleyan, and Mary Karr became a Catholic at 40 after lifelong literary liberalism (which she retains). My mother's had some choice words for people at times, particularly heartbreaking times, and Karr herself pulls from that reserve with abandon. (One poem here about a relationship gone sour ends with the poet-memoirist tagging herself as a ...more
David Clark
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-karr
Powerful poetry that wastes no words on the superficial or the peripheral.

"I opened up my shirt to show this man
the flaming heart he lit in me, and I was scooped up
like a lamb and carried to the dim warm.
I who should have been kneeling
was knelt to by one whose face
should be emblazoned on every coin and diadem:

. . . That the world could arrive at me
with him in it, after so much longing--
impossible. He enters me and joy
sprouts from us as from a split seed.

Mary Karr speaks of her life and world
Kelly Sauskojus
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lovely spiritual feminine harsh symphony of a book of poems. Worth it just for her essay at the end.
Books I'm Not Reading
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Just like Goodreads says - It was AMAZING! I really connected to this collection in a way that I haven't with other poetry collections I've read so far (very small number!). Don't let it's title or picture make you believe this is only a poetry collection for believers. These are really intriguing and well-written poems. ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mary Karr's poetry collection, like her memoirs, did not disappoint me. In fact, I am floored by her ability to write such beautiful poems so honestly and concretely. Her voice is so distinct, I can hear her words tinged by her Texas upbringing yet informed by her many years of reading and studying literature and poetry and her own writing and devotion to words. Besides the poetry itself, the Afterword at the end, the essay called "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer" that had been published elsewh ...more
Jul 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy confessional poetry
Shelves: poetry
Mary Karr's poetry is fresh and full of life. I particularly enjoyed her several "Descending Theology..." poems scattered throughout. This book is worth the afterword alone that includes an essay she wrote for Poetry entitled, "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer." ...more
Abbi Dion
this collection includes a poem about john engman. for a time, she slept on his couch. in minneapolis. love that. a lot.
tortoise dreams
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
The fourth volume of poetry by noted memoirist Mary Karr. Karr is known more for her memoirs than her poetry, but Sinners Welcome demonstrates the close link between the two forms, how both seek to make sense of and find meaning in our lives. This volume is dedicated to her sister Lecia, who we memorably first met in the memoir Liars' Club. The two books inform each other, cross-pollinate, expand on and explore themes raised in each. Karr also writes in a straightforward effort to communicate. H ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed reading my first collection to Mary Karr's poetry. Her language and thoughts are sharp, raw, sensitive. Her perspective and imagery is unexpected, challenging. Having not yet read her memoirs, I already know her mother is someone I would not like! Her unusual coming to God through the Catholic church fascinates me, to see the ways in which God has worked in her life and is using her unique voice in painting portraits of Him in this collection.
In fact, her essay on Poetry and Faith (whi
Twila Newey
Apr 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
93pp. I heard her speak. She is a good speaker. I started two books and finished this one. She is a good writer. I think it maybe timing, but I couldn't get into Liar's Club. She is the mother of memoir as a genre. I didn't love every poem in this collection, but put stars that look more like dandelion heads gone to seed next to a few. Here's one I marked.


to learn is the someday you'll someday
stagger to, blinking in cold light, all tears
shed, ready to poke your bovine head
Jan 17, 2021 added it
i'm not rating this because i couldn't fully grasp the meaning of some of these. the poems are really good, nonetheless; it is one of those collections (for me) to which i'll have to come back in order to sort & form my thoughts. anyway, read some of my faves from the collection.

+ (this lesson you've got, pluck, descending theology: christ human, winter term's end (!!!), metaphysique du mal, pathetic fallacy, disgraceland)
Mitch Rogers
Dec 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Here's a writer that I admire mightily (two of her memoirs on my shelf at home as a testament to my faith in her) writing a book I was fairly lukewarm toward. I'm still waiting for that religious book that articulates my feelings, which is why I suppose the good Lord invented pencils and gave me glasses. ...more
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2021
i dont usually read poetry out loud (a sin, i know), but i read all of these out loud because that’s how much i enjoyed them
Stephanie Green
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Long Book Review - Sinners Welcome - Mary Karr

Finding Herself.

‘Sinner’s Welcome’ is a collection of poetry by the talented Mary Karr. It is brimming with her memories, stories and secrets all compiled into one fascinating book. It’s her fourth collection of poems and if you search deep enough within her words, Karr will allow you to experience her own personal memories and hear her thoughts. The title of the book ‘Sinners Welcome’ drew me in because it sounded interesting. She was directing this
Lina Lim
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sinners Welcome consists of emotional, powerful, and compelling poems that draw the readers into the book. Although it may seem difficult to comprehend at first, you will soon realize that you are empathizing with Mary Karr, if you've ever had the experience of a loss of something meaningful and important. I was surprised and somewhat shocked at her use of diction and comparisons to describe the situation. For example, one of the poems that I most empathized with was "Métaphysique Du Mal". It st ...more
Emily Song
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So. Before reading this poetry, I had seriously no prior knowledge of who the author was, or what this poetry was going to be about—just that it is about the author, Mary Karr, who is going through quite a number of hardships, just as the summary stated. I simply chose this book thinking that it would be interesting to see a person’s life through the format of poetry, and the title itself too was intriguing. However, even though it was difficult at first, there was so much more than just Karr ...more
Alexis Kang
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Domestic tension, faith and confusion within, and confession to her own shortcomings. These three key elements defines the direction of Karr's poems. Her poetry invites readers to reflect upon themselves with powerful imagery, sincerely melancholy tone, and her distinctly dense, complex, and personal voice throughout the entire collection, but the meanings and the story behind her poems don't reveal themselves until further into the book. Because of this feature, I didn't start off liking her po ...more
Edward Huang
When it comes down to writing poetry, Mary Karr has a cut-to-the-chase attitude, helping readers follow the underlying emphasis on her life. She tends to ignore conventional poetic techniques though oft delves into emotional appeals and narratives elucidating her dismaying, yet religiously epiphanic thoughts. In a poetic sense I personally don’t believe she favored rhetoric richness over content, however, the content that is worded and puzzled out uniquely helped her develop exciting and insight ...more
Hee Sun
The ominous title of Mary Karr’s “Sinners Welcome” piqued my interest, but her repulsive autobiographical accounts of her tumultuous life often put me in perplexed confusion. These poems were not an easy read for my naive and comparatively unchallenged worldview, yet I could often identify and share a common humanity with the author. Karr expresses her feelings and thoughts about finding spirituality amidst her chaos and transforming into a Catholic from an atheist. In the poem, “Oratorio for th ...more
Mac Lee
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mary Karr’s "Sinners Welcome" is an especially complex read, oftentimes placing the reader into a perplexed stupor. Due to the extreme nature of the poems, relating to them was difficult. Nevertheless, there are some poems that are germane to the issues of the world today, as well as a few that are ever so slightly related to my personal life.
The moment I flipped the book to its first page, I was already greeted with the word “Pathetic.” The overwhelming sense of drabness could be felt througho
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Being a lover of poetry and thus having fallen in love with a variety of poetic novels in my past, I still have the confidence to claim "Sinners Welcome" as one of the best collections of poetry that I have read so far, or as far as I can remember. Mary Karr's poems are earnest, as all poems should be, and speak to the reader's mind in a style of speech that is completely free from unnecessary and gaudy wording designed to forcefully draw out certain emotions from the reader; rather, her poems s ...more
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended by some of my friends, Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr became my very first poetry collection to be read. It was thrilled yet anxious to read without any prior knowledge of the author, or the story she had prepared.
Expecting for an enthrallment that my friends have noticed from this collection, I opened the book and read “Pathetic Fallacy”. It certainly was difficult to understand the meaning behind this poem, a revelation of a conflict through a format of poetry, however repeatedly
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
The reason why I have decided to read this book Sinners Welcome because as a christian myself I thought I can relate myself to the author better and thought that this is a good opportunity to hear other people's testimony. Sinners Welcome was kind of hard to relate to at first but as I reread the poem over and over again, I was able to pick out some humor that she was using and it was fun to find out some of words that were used differently than now.
To talk a little bit about Mary Karr, I was q
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Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at Syracuse University.

Karr was born January 16, 1955, in Groves, a small town in East Texas located in the Port Arthur region, known for its oil refineries and chemical plants, to J. P. and Charlie Marie (Mo

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“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
44 likes · 9 comments
“The Lesson You've Got

to learn is the someday you'll someday
stagger to, blinking in cold light, all tears
shed, ready to poke your bovine head
in the yoke they've shaped.

Everyone learns this. Born, everyone
breathes, pays tax, plants dead
and hurts galore. There's grief enough
for each. My mother

learned by moving man to man,
outlived them all. The parched earth's
bare (once she leaves it) of any who watched
the instants I trod it.

Other than myself, of course.
I've made a study of bearing
and forbearance. Everyone does,
it turns out, and note

those faces passing by: Not one's a god. ”
“In my godless household, poems were the closest we came to sacred speech -- the only prayers said.” 12 likes
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