Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine

We at the Oregon Writers Colony have been reading new and forthcoming books by Oregon authors through the holidays, and it gives us great pleasure, at last, to announce the Oregon Book Club Winter Selection: Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine, from the independent publishing pioneers at Graywolf Press.

who will pity us when the bees disappear into their shadows
who loves the dank earth, its wolves and tigresses

-Mary Szybist, from “How (Not) to Speak of God”

When we talk about poetry (those of us who read and write it), we often find ourselves addressing a reluctant audience: readers of fiction and memoir, politics and pop science. What does poetry do in a world of social media and smart phones, drones and climate change? If Incarnadine is our measure, the answer is: poetry speaks to what it is to be human, to be flesh, blood, bones, and spirit.

Incarnadine CoverIncarnadine commences with a notable beginning, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and moves back and forth in time, from atrocities of the Crusades, to the national scandal on display in The Starr Report, to the Portland woman who threw her children from the Sellwood Bridge.

And yet, these poems are frequently intimate. While sharply examining womanhood through Mary, mother of Jesus, Szybist also examines “Mary,” the modern woman, teacher, and wife. Whether the subject is personal, historical, religious, or political, each poem reads like a meditation on a minor annunciation–the ephemeral beginning of a great, soul-testing event. Incarnadine, like the best poetry, invites us to contemplate the delicacy and potential of a single moment.

Mary Szybist has won many national awards and fellowships. Her first collection, Granted, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in Portland and teaches at Lewis & Clark College.
No, we’re not that O Book Club. We’re your regional, independent-minded, beachcombing, wood-chopping alternative. Oregon Book Club exposes Oregon Writers Colony members to unheralded Oregon writers. We mail a newly published book four times a year, and host a public salon for selected authors, with lively interviews, readings, and conversation. For more information on the Oregon Book Club, contact Alexis Smith at