cover image Acts


Spencer Reece. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-10083-4

The excellent latest from Reece (The Road to Emmaus) is immersed in a faithful, but not unquestioning, lyricism, in part inflected by his life as a priest (“Still singing in my cell,” as he puts it). Having moved to Madrid, Reece suffuses the poems with Spain’s music and poetry, with allusions to Federico García Lorca and Antonio Machado running throughout. The country is itself one of the embodied figures of these poems: “Spain, you smell like cigarettes—/ generous, plump, never grumpy about sex.” Neither is the collection “grumpy about sex,” or love. It’s a carnally charged tussle between “unidentified loneliness” and “[t]he erotic barely contained.” “Whatever the question the answer is love,” Reece writes in the digressive, charmingly epistolary sequence “Letters from Spain.” Righteousness and puritanism are the enemy in these pages, and a leavening wit seeks to amplify, and deepen, an erotic of piety. Lit up by memorable phrases (“above me Christ/ sags in his candelabra of surrender” and “the chandelier of Europe lit with empty churches”), Reece’s spry musicality is amplified by his often plainspoken, pared-down syntax: “Longer I go fewer notes/ I need.” These poems are generously companionable hymns of delight in service. (May)