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The Road to Emmaus: Poems Hardcover – April 1, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280857
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The most exceptional poems in this engaging collection are long and not just personal but autobiographical. The Road to Emmaus is about two men on the same journey, himself when young and his much older AA sponsor. We see Reece in counseling with an elderly nun, recalling his sole love relationship, which began when he was 39 and Joseph was 50 and lasted five years. In the prose poem, Hartford, ­Reece, older yet, is a hospital chaplain in the city of his birth, pondering the Jewish past of his mother’s family and traces of Wallace Stevens, Hartford’s great resident poet when it was a WASP, not a black, metropolis. And in The Upper Room, Reece shows himself studying in middle age for the Episcopal priesthood—his second crack at it, successful this time, though he is wracked by a wave of deaths in his family. With their allusive titles and citations, all four conjure a gritty world scarred by disruptions good (gay liberation) and bad (urban poverty, violence, madness) yet suffused with poetry, love, and the Gospel. --Ray Olson

Review

“For Spencer Reece, humbling is a given. Even though his language in The Road to Emmaus, his first book since his ordination, is often remarkably inventive and sometimes formally elegant, the poems’ tone never betrays awareness of his achievement . . . There’s a quality of devotion in all of these that can make the secular seem sacred. One can truly attend through attention, the writing suggests, and the poems manage to be unwavering—almost unvarying—in the quality of their gaze.” —Jonathan Farmer, Slate

“Reece follows up his acclaimed first book with a gorgeous series of poems in verse and prose about a middle-aged man's coming to terms with religious faith, going as far as becoming a priest, a hospital chaplain, and a quiet chronicler of everyday suffering. ‘It is correct to love even at the wrong time,’ he writes of a visit to newborns in an ICU. Reece's style is straightforward, but always graceful, understatedly beautiful. These poems compassionately describe all the stops along this journey, which leads across America and elsewhere, always inviting readers to respond: ‘it was an interview, much of life is an interview.’” —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

The Road to Emmaus confirms why I have always looked to Reece’s work not only as inspiration for my own poems, but also as a guide for my soul. In this collection I follow his every footstep as he walks toward himself—toward myself—stopping to admire or fear what we see in ourselves, in others, in each other. Each poem a portrait or a self-portrait exquisitely and painstakingly drawn along the way, by the side of that proverbial road we journey with him, encountering life in all its loneliness and wholeness, its lucidness and doubt, its bitterness and glory.”
—Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet and author of Looking for The Gulf Motel.

“These poems form a true and riveting narrative. Reading Reece makes you recall why you love poetry.” —Annie Dillard, author of The Maytrees and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“Though many of Spencer Reece's poems move forward with the narrative punch of short stories, they are packed with poetry's exquisite insight and metaphoric brilliance. These are moral poems that speak of loneliness in terms so intimate that they seem to breech loneliness; they are both documents of isolation and manifestos of love. And they achieve such embrace via lyric bursts that are arresting, evocative, and profound.” —Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon

Praise for The Clerk’s Tale

“Reece’s poems are at once splendidly fresh and deeply rooted in poetry’s rich loam . . . Reece’s striking debut yields new revelations with each reading.” —Booklist 

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book-jacket cover states that THE ROAD TO EMMAUS is a book of "poems". The rear inside flyleaf of the book-jacket says that Spencer Reece "is a poet and a priest". But I don't view the eighteen pieces as poems, although most are formatted as poems typically are. By and large, they are straightforward, declarative pieces about various aspects and experiences from the life of Spencer Reece and, to me, they are testaments and/or confessions.

Most are presented as autobiographical. Common themes are family, estrangement and attenuated reconciliation, religion and becoming an Episcopal priest, comforting the afflicted in hospitals, prisons, and orphanages, and coming to grips with homosexuality. Many are set in New England (Cambridge, Mass.; Hartford and New Haven, Conn.) or in Florida. But beyond relating to specifics from the life of Spencer Reece, these pieces are about the mystery, sadness, and glory of life, and they exemplify the transforming power of literature to make pain and loneliness endurable.

I am deeply impressed by the sincerity of Spencer Reece and how these so-called poems are neither forced nor pretentious. Nor are they arcane. I intend to return to THE ROAD TO EMMAUS in the near future -- to the entire volume, not just to some of its entries -- something quite rare in my reading experience.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Gospel of John was right:
the world holds so much life.
There are not enough books to record it all.
I kissed the young man on his cheek, very lightly.

-- Jesus said to them: "Unbind him, and let him go."

We each went our separate ways
following where we were being led.
Marie said: "Write it down, just as it happened."

These are the closing lines of "Hymn," the final poem in Spencer Reece's spare and moving collection. They really say everything that the book is about: the "so much life" that Reece crams into his pages, his unique confessional voice that manages to say freshly what many others have written about before, his identity as an older gay man, the quality of renunciation that throbs through many of these poems, his deep spirituality -- and above all, his ability to "write it down, just as it happened."

Reece has been moving between writing and religion for most of his adult life. As a student at Wesleyan, he was encouraged by Annie Dillard and later by James Merrill, whose confessional poetry is an obvious influence on his own work. He then took degrees in Theology from Harvard and Yale. But for most of the middle years of his life, he worked as a clerk for the Brooks Brothers outlet at the Mall of America, an experience which provided the material for his first prizewinning collection, THE CLERK'S TALE. Then later in life, he returned to the church, and was ordained as a priest (I think Anglo-Catholic) in 2011, at the age of 48. For most of the next year, he worked with orphan girls in Honduras. So much for the facts, but the poems look deep behind them, into the writer's soul.

I call this a collection of poems -- there are 18 in all -- but in fact, they are very varied in texture.
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By Neil B T on February 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely love this text.
This Reece is a more floridly fleshed-out, eloquent approximation of the heretofore sui generis craftswoman Emily Dickinson.
One can but hope that he will not suffer Her immediate fate.
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By Liam Malone on December 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the interweaving of philosophy and ideas into the poems.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jack Anderson on May 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By JACK ANDERSON
As a poet, Spencer Reece pays attention to people. He listens. He looks. He ponders.. And no wonder for, in addition to being a poet, Reece is an Episcopal priest, and priests are expected to contemplate and meditate. Reece is also gay, and he writes narrative poems about such matters as Coming Out and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, hospital and prison chaplaincies, familial estrangement and reconciliation, and gay love affairs. These are austere poems, disdaining verbal flamboyance. Many are in free verse. There are also prose poems. Yet a reader of some may be surprised to discover that they utilize rhymes and slant rhymes or are composed in loose iambics. Reece's art conceals obvious artifice to make his narratives, not his verbiage, vivid. Many of his remarks are worth pondering. For instance, he asks "religion and poetry, can they ever be divided?" and concludes "A poet, like a priest, works with facts and mysteries: the facts mysterious, the mysteries factual."
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The Road to Emmaus: Poems
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