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Saint Monica [Paperback]

by Mary Biddinger
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 21, 2011 0982876610 978-0982876619 0
Poetry. Mary Biddinger's poetry collection SAINT MONICA reinvents the saint as an everyday girl coming of age in the rust belt Midwest. These poems explore temptation, transgression, and heavenly presences in a landscape that is far from holy.

"Biddinger crisply narrates these memorable tales that entwine horror and sensual discovery, using deft rhythms, head-snapping line breaks, and highly original imagery."—Rachel Dacus

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Saint Monica + Stone for an Eye (Wick Poetry Chapbook Series, 3) + Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Approaches to Writing)
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Editorial Reviews


"It's a testimony to Biddinger's careful poetic crafting and deep understanding of the human psyche that what could start, for many, as an unwelcome trip, becomes a beautiful unfolding of empathy and compassion." --Melissa Studdard, The National Poetry Review

"If Girard was right, and all desire, mimetic or not, is at its root metaphysical ('all desire is a desire to be'), Monica's growing awareness of self amid a backdrop of indoctrination is indeed a feat of imagination on behalf of her author..." --Virginia Konchan, The Rumpus

From the Back Cover

Equally familiar and strange in her wonderment, Mary Biddinger's Saint Monica rises above the water towers and smokestacks of the midwest, a saint transfigured into a modern girl with a persistent craving for muscle cars and tattooed love boys. Yet this Saint Monica does more than want; her yearnings are feral, carnal, and unflinchingly honest. She does not ask for God to take her walls away so much as figure out how to kick them down herself. The result: her escape route is illuminated by a slender and elegant beam of longing and melancholy in poems that make clear the clandestine nature of what we desire most.
--Steve Kistulentz, author of The Luckless Age and Little Black Daydream

Mary Biddinger evokes the patron saint of female abuse victims in narrating the adolescence of a latter day Saint Monica. Ironic humor illuminates the poems, as in "Saint Monica Stays the Course," a hilarious catechism of teeth-gritting endurance. Biddinger crisply narrates these memorable tales that entwine horror and sensual discovery, using deft rhythms, head-snapping line breaks, and highly original imagery.
--Rachel Dacus, author of Femme au Chapeau and Earth Lessons

Product Details

  • Paperback: 42 pages
  • Publisher: Black Lawrence Press (June 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982876610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982876619
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,551,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Biddinger is the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Redivider, among others.

Biddinger is the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, and co-editor, with John Gallaher, of the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics, which published its first volume in early 2011: The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics. She also edits the independent, annual poetry magazine Barn Owl Review.

Biddinger is an Associate Professor at The University of Akron, where she serves as Assistant Chair of the English Department and teaches courses in poetry writing and literature.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "the child of those tears shall never perish" July 3, 2011
The much admired and published poet Mary Biddinger has in many ways reinvented poetic communication in her most recent collection from Black Lawrence Press, SAINT MONICA. Biddinger has usurped the persona of that most humble of saints, Saint Monica, the patron saint of abuse victims, alcoholics, alcoholism, difficult marriages, disappointing children, homemakers, housewives, married women, mothers, victims of adultery, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, widows and wives. According to the Catholic Church the following is a Prayer to Saint Monica: 'Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven. Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray. Amen.'

With a matrix such as this to draw upon, Mary Biddinger speaks from her background in Ohio with a distinct Midwestern voice as she recreates 'little Monicas' who enter the world of adult transgressions and yearnings and fears and at times impudent participation in her own slightly disdainful refusal to accept limitations. She speaks with a voice at all times honest in its appealing nature and introduces us to certain important friends who represent her exploration of forbidden desires: she never loses sight of the humor that may be evident or occult in the diary-like life of a girl who is living in that most treasurable region of Americana.


The say chastity is a gift,
like an extra thumb.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Biddinger Spills Her Wit Across These Pages July 2, 2011
Reading Mary Biddinger's Saint Monica was as mystical as anything the Church has to offer, a mingling of Holy Water and poetry. Monica is an everyday person's saint. The good girl and the bad girl rolled into one.

Biddinger has effectively laced verse together with a lining of Catholic culture. It's edgy, rough and tumble and fun. Monica is knee high socks, prefect pleats, immaculate white blouse and she has standards. She would never go to the Devil's Place over shoplifting Raisinets, but an afternoon swim with Kevin McMillan in a pond...

Biddinger has dedicated Saint Monica to all the girls with names that begin with M but it should resonate with anyone who knows a Catholic girl with a name that starts with M and that's as universal as the Church itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I read in 2011, hands down. January 26, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mary Biddinger, <strong>Saint Monica</strong> (Black Lawrence Press, 2011)

I'm writing this early in 2012, so I can say it with confidence: <em>Saint Monica</em> was the single best book I read in 2011 (final count: 272, with this being the third of those books to get five stars), not only living up to but surpassing the promise of <em>Prairie Fever</em>. From first page ("The owls would like to unwrap//her, as owls do, always looking/for the next loose shutter, the goldfinch/bathing in a pile of spilled parmesan//in the convenience store parking lot.") to last ("They lived in Michigan,//where nothing ever changed. But when/would the pint glass shatter in her hand,/just like the woman on the screen, limp/ponytail snaking around her shoulders?"), this is poetry that tries, and not once fails, to surprise and delight with unexpected imagery, spot-on word choice, and a gaze that never leaves the bigger picture even when it's focused on the smallest image. I quoted that goldfinch image on facebook right after I read it, saying "I had to remember how to breathe." There's a great deal of that to be found in this book, which should be on the shelf of not only every reader of poetry, but every reader period. *****
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Redemption from Adolescence December 3, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ms. Biddinger employs the font of religious confession to visit the frission of catechism, locale and hormones. The poems create a persona who is ever trapped and ever attempting to escape, as if rebellion were revolution.This Monica, unlike the hagiographic mother of Augustine, is not graced with long suffering patience, rather she flirts with the de-romantic desire and violence that stereo-typifies the lower middle of America. "Saint Monica" invests itself with Denny's, Care Bear Panties, Shakepearean sonnets and allusions to a motel of meanings as mysterious as the religion of literature. What results in the poems is a sporatic detailed picaresque wherein the poetic observation of Monica suffices for a style of redemption.
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