cover image Magnificat: Poems

Magnificat: Poems

Marilyn Nelson, Marilyn Nelson Waniek. Louisiana State University Press, $26.95 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-1921-1

The subject of Waniek's (The Homeplace) fourth collection-discovering faith in God-may not be a fashionable theme. But her passion, sincerity and self-deprecating humor will engage even the most skeptical reader in the joys and frustrations of her quest for spiritual awakening. For instance, in the book's opening poems Waniek describes a 20-year longing for a friend who has become a Benedictine monk. As she contemplates his religious vocation, her feelings gradually evolve from profane love to religious devotion. In ``Plain Songs,'' the thirst for a holy knowledge competes with the tug of worldly wants and weaknesses until the poet realizes that blessedness is found in ordinary things. The book's high point is a witty series of poems featuring an imaginary desert father called Abba Jacob, a holy ``fool'' whose pithy utterances have an engaging, hard-headed wisdom (``Big deal,/ said Abba Jacob./ Miracles happen all the time./ We're here,/ aren't we?''). Like him, Waniek's accounts of her struggles with her faith are disarmingly direct and unpretentious. She has succeeded in the tricky task of describing this intensely personal (and vulnerable) experience with intelligence, spirit and humility. (Oct.)