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Poets Explore Saints, Challenge Claim That Catholic Writer MIA

March 24, 2014

Notre Dame, IN—In 2012, famed editor and writer Paul Elie asked in a New York Times essay whether fiction had lost its faith. More recently, Dana Gioia examined the disappearance of Roman Catholicism from its traditionally formative role in arts culture, asking, more or less, where the Catholic writer has gone. A new poetry anthology, like the character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, replies,“S/he’s not dead yet!”

St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints is composed of poems whose speakers narrate in the messy here and now, but whose musings point to the great company of Catholic saints. The anthology boasts contributions from such contemporary award-winning poets as Dana Gioia, Mary Karr, Paul Mariani, Brian Doyle, Franz Wright, Judith Valente, and Kate Daniels, as well as many new and emerging poets. The poems invite readers to imagine the saints as they never have before: a mother trying to get her newborn to fall asleep, an older brother concerned about the marriage of his sister, a man’s memory of his involvement in a bar fight, a burn victim’s compassion for a small child.

Riffing on Flannery O’Connor’s incarnational view of art, Mary Ann B. Miller, editor of St. Peter’s B-list, reminds readers that “Christ’s humanity validates the natural world as wholly able to reveal to us the presence of the divinity within it.” Miller also distinguishes between artist and art: “I am making no judgment upon whether the author is a practicing Catholic, only that the content of these poems contains a basic underlying assumption that is essentially Catholic: the voices in these poems reflect belief in and hope for, often in spite of themselves, eventual union with God.”

Neither devotional nor pious, these poems capture how, in unexpected ways, the saints illuminate daily life for everyday saints-in-the-making and ask readers to see the action of God in their own lives.

About Mary Ann B. Miller

Mary Ann Buddenberg Miller is a professor of English at Caldwell College in Caldwell, New Jersey, a small liberal arts college in the Dominican tradition. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and her doctorate in English literature from the Catholic University of America. She frequently teaches Masterpieces of Western Literature, Literature of the Victorian Age, Catholic Writers, Introduction to Poetry, and College Writing. Her research interests are located at the intersection of theology and literature. Her outreach efforts include offering students in the Introduction to Poetry course the opportunity to host public readings for local, published poets.

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