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Sinners Welcome: Poems Hardcover – February 28, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the memoirs The Liar's Club and Cherry began as a poet; this first collection of verse since 1995's Viper Rum alternates between a familiar, unsparing autobiographical vein and a new commitment to Christian belief. Karr, a recovering alcoholic and a temperamental skeptic, entered the Catholic church in 1996, and poems about God, Christ and Christian rituals may draw most readers' attention: "Disgraceland" describes "my first communion at 40," and tries to blend Karr's characteristic acerbity with her interest in religious compassion: "You are loved, someone said. Take that and eat it." Some of the strongest of Karr's clean, direct free-verse efforts have less to do with religion than with her friends, children, parents, vexing early life. When she writes of "the winter Mother's ashes came in a Ziploc bag," fans of her prose will relate. (Mar.)
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From the Back Cover

In her fourth collection of poems, self-described black-belt sinner Mary Karr traces her improbable journey from the inferno of a tormented childhood into a resolutely irreverent Catholicism. Not since Saint Augustine wrote “Give me chastity, Lord—but not yet!” has anyone brought such smart-assed hilarity to a conversion story.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060776544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060776541
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Karr's first memoir, The Liar's Club, kick-started a memoir revolution and won nonfiction prizes from PEN and the Texas Institute of Letters. Also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, it rode high on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year, becoming an annual "best book" there and for The New Yorker, People, and Time. Recently Entertainment Weekly rated it number four in the top one hundred books of the past twenty-five years. Her second memoir, Cherry, which was excerpted in The New Yorker, also hit bestseller and "notable book" lists at the New York Times and dozens of other papers nationwide. Her most recent book in this autobiographical series, Lit: A Memoir, is the story of her alcoholism, recovery, and conversion to Catholicism. A Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, Karr has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award and Radcliffe's Bunting Fellowship. She is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By KH1 VINE VOICE on April 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not since I was introduced to Wislawa Szymborska's writing have I found a collection of poetry that I not only wanted to read over and over and over again, but to memorize every word so that I could recite the poems to myself whenever I wished. Mary Karr's newest collection, SINNERS WELCOME, is a beautiful meditation on revelation in a world gone mad with abundance and self-interest. Karr seeks and finds the divine in the grittiest of objects and places - factory restrooms, a coat hangar, ashes sent to her in a plastic bag labeled "Mother, 1/2". Karr's poetry is a reminder that the sacred is everywhere, only hidden from view until we draw it out with our longing.

Concurrent shame and redemption is a recurring theme in this collection. The poet often writes of reaching out to the sacred just as she shrinks back from it, as in "Disgraceland":

"I found myself upright
in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that
and eat it."

Or, in one of my favorites - "For a Dying Tomcat Who's Relinquished His Fomer Hissing and Predatory Nature", in which the poet cradles her dying cat and finds an analogy between herself and the cat, and God and herself:

"It hurts to eat. So you surrender in the way
I pray for: Lord, before my own death,
let me learn from this animal's deep release
into my arms. Let me cease to fear
the embrace that seeks to still me.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Stegnick on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book at a bookstore, because I remembered a couple of her poems I saw in the New Yorker, one was "The Choice" and the other was "Blessing from My Sixteen Year Son". Both I knew were wonderful poems, so I bought it. I've probably read this amazing book from cover to cover about 3-4 times already, and I've worked my way backwards, picking up all her earlier work. I've always been a huge Larkin fan and it's good to see the voice of angst again, but this time, unlike Larkin, there is hope for Karr, whereas Larkin dwelled in a world of desolation having never loved someone. This book is highly recommended, one of the few gems in contemporary poetry.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mary Karr is an amazing poet, an amazing thinker who is able to distill her responses to the world as she finds it and opens a few windows into the world as she wants or thinks it should be. We need Mary Karr and others who write words like these wonderful poems. She reminds us that there is a sense of meaning if we seek it. And while it is a well known fact that Karr's journey from agnosticism to Catholicism is a head-scratcher at best, the poems in this her fourth anthology, are among her finest.

A good example is her poem 'Orders from the Invisible':

'Insert coin. Mind the gap. Do not disturb

hung from the doorknob of a hotel room,

where a man begged to die entwined in my arms.

He once wrote

he'd take the third rail in his teeth, which is how

loving him turned out.

The airport's glass world

glided me gone from him, and the sky I flew into

grew a pearly cataract through which God

lost sight of us. The moving wall

is nearing its end.'

Read it, and then with all of Karr's poems, pause, think, and read it again. This is a major poet with a unique voice that has much to tell us - if we are open to listening. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 06
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this short volume of confessional poetry, Mary Karr describes her difficult conversion from irreverence and agnosticism to Catholicism. Karr is Professor of English at Syracuse University, the author of several earlier books of poetry and memoirs, and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. The volume also includes an Afterword consisting of an essay Karr wrote for "Poetry" magazine: "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer" in which she describes in prose her religious conversion and the relationship she sees between poetry and religion. The essay rambles, and I found some of its colloquial, rough-talking character forced. It works far less well than the poems in this collection, which are generally moving and restrained.

Karr converted in mid-life. Prior to her conversion, her life was marked by a difficult childhood in a small Texas town, an ambiguous and violent relationship with her mother, unhappy sexual relationships, a failed marriage, and heavy drinking. In short poems, she writes about her early life experiences from the standpoint of her newfound life -- following her conversion. The poems are tart and sharp but they include an undercurrent of reflection and compassion.

Karr also writes poems describing her life following her conversion. Karr is emphatic that prayer and religious experience have not taken her from the realm of earthly sorrow. Karr describes her life as a single mother, her hopes for her son, and her loneliness when he leaves for college. She describes her continued and frequently unhappy experiences with lovers, and her ongoing difficulties with alcohol. Karr struggles with her religious faith as she struggles with events in her life.
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