Reviews of Incarnadine

"Szybist has built an entire book around the coincidence of her name, using the overlap with the mother of Jesus to articulate her hunger for something more than human and her desire to find it in a comfortably human form. The result, winner of this year’s National Book Award, is incredibly enticing—a book that always seems to be on the brink of revelation but that allows for neither easy answers nor easy evasions."

Jonathan Farmer, Slate, "Best Poetry Books of 2013"

"Not since Adrienne Rich’s early work has a collection thought so deeply about the permeable barrier between the spirit and the body, and motherhood. . . . Szybist writes lucid, delicately precise lines that grow more steeply enjambed as she falls into her subject. . . . Extraordinary."

Jon Freeman, The Boston Globe

“Gorgeous. . . . [The] intersection of human and divine colors every page. . . . Szybist burns throughout these pages, whether she writes about a butterfly, a donkey sanctuary or a young captain during World War II. When Szybist sees angels, they are everywhere—in alchemy, barrenness and earthquakes.”

Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post

"Gabriel and Mary's collision, in Szybist's hands, is electrifying, becoming metaphor for the experience of being chosen (or not) and for the feeling of being deeply changed (or not). . . . And what she has produced in her study of the old stories and paintings—tapestries of angels and gods—is a sense of doubleness entirely contemporary. She is a poet full of wishes, but she is unwilling to make anything seem to be what it is not."

Jesse Nathan, Coldfront

"Szybist's various poetic 'annunciations' recall Rilke's line that 'every angel is terrifying;' this is 'a world where a girl has only to say yes and heaven opens' but where the young girl finds that 'the Holy / will overshadow you.' Szybist is the rare poet of flesh and spirit who can repeatedly capture that terrible moment of grace."

Dave Lucas, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Szybist has carefully approached potentially volatile and politically squeamish topics by linking them to the personal, showing how poetry interacts with and reacts to these deep historical and contemporary chasms of the rights and representations of women in religion, literature, and society."

New Pages

"What's arresting about the poem is the pliancy of voice, which stretches across stanzas and, at moments, almost snaps, surprised again and again into self-recognition.  What's revelatory is just how open yet tactful the poem is, especially given its subject matter: how we care for the elderly.  One at a time, the poem shows, one at a time.  It's a moving model of just how unrestricted and un-categorize-able and beautifully indefinable human intimacy can be, its limitations, and the necessary role the imagination can play in finding value and lucidity in shared darkness."

William Olsen, Fifth Wednesday Journal, on selecting "Night Shifts at the Group Home" for the 2012 Editor's Prize

"Smart, unflinching, beautiful, the poems in Incarnadine embrace the paradoxes of love: love of being beheld, of being beholden, of being 'done unto,' and of what it means to care for what we make of what we are given, or not given, of what it means to 'see annunciations everywhere,' in disasters, tragedies, moments of grace and miracle."

Lisa Russ Spaar, Los Angeles Review of Books

"In this highly anticipated second book from Szybist (Granted), love poetry and poetry of religious faith blend and blur into one transcendent, humbled substance . . . whether or not readers are attuned to the religious content, these are gorgeous lyrics, in traditional and invented forms—one poem is a diagrammed sentence while another radiates from an empty space at the center of the page—which create close encounters with not-quite-paraphrasable truths. This is essential poetry."

Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

"Poetry readers in the know have been waiting a decade for this book. . . . Szybist is a skeptic who thinks a lot about faith, a believer in doubt, though as a series of 'Announcement' poems attest, she finds God all around—in everything from the distracted discourse of former President Bush to the sound of 'a vacuum / start[ing] up next door.' . . . More than anything, though, Szybist is a humble and compassionate observer of the complicated glory of the world and humanity's ambivalent role in it, as inheritors and interlopers."

— Craig Morgan Teicher, National Public Radio

"Szybist’s second book, Incarnadine, is even more deeply fueled by her ability to fasten the individual to the archetypal and so achieve a mythic resonance within her deeply spiritual and disquietingly explosive lyrics."

Jacqueline Kolosov, The Kenyon Review

"Szybist artfully reconciles the legend of the Annunciation with our contemporary culture. . . . Incarnadine is sophisticated, wry, faithful, divine, contradictory, tragic and allusive."

Ken Shaw, The Rumpus

"One gets the sense that [Syzbist] held onto each of these poems until they became as luminous and well-formed as a glass sculpture. . . . Szybist gives us poems that wrestle with the same mysteries and contradictions we all face on a daily basis, doing our best, and often failing, to make sense of them. Somehow, she has managed to make lasting art of our human failings; she has turned our sometimes humorous, sometimes serious engagements with confusion into a beautiful, grace-filled book that was more than worth the wait."

James Crews, basalt

"Szybist’s newest collection, Incarnadine, pulses with its titular rosy glow. . . . Ultimately, Incarnadine paints a portrait of its author—longing for motherhood, questioning the divine, watching patterns of sunlight through her curtains and playing with her words. In her letter-style poem 'To Gabriela at the Donkey Sanctuary,' she puts it simply: 'What I want is what I’ve always wanted. What I want is to be changed.'"

Penelope Bass, Willamette Week

"Szybist's collection evokes the old Catholic direction to find God in all things, but you don't have to be Catholic to understand exactly what she's getting at. Rather, she merely exposes the supernatural as it occurs among us every day and invites us to marvel at the spiritual heaviness of the world—which, even in its darkest moments, she skillfully demonstrates as beautiful."

New Orleans Review

"Szybist's long-awaited second collection. . . . is a mirage of inventive, intense, dichotic poems."

— Library Journal

"Incarnadine is a formally playful and carefully crafted book with a sense of wonder. Through a grace and a little humor, Szybist explores spirituality and intimacy in the quiet moments of life."

hazel & wren

"With its quiet compassion, plainspokenness, unearthly music, and innovative formal inventions—which function almost like flirtations, a kind of promise of another system of knowing/thinking/feeling—Incarnadine leaves me, as Szybist writes, with 'the happy idea that what I do not understand is more real than what I do . . .'"

— On the Seawall

"With couplets, quatrains, quoted text, prose poems, erasures, sonnets—Szybist avails herself of a multitude of forms in her quest to approach the unsayable without distraction, to “feel without exaggerating anything.” Fresco technique comes to mind: the compact work of days and details accumulating mass, gathering vision. . . " 

Kevin Craft, Poetry Northwest

Other Reviews