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Unholy Sonnets Paperback – April 1, 2000

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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more

Editorial Reviews


. . .that rarity, a book, rather than a collection of poems, a unified lyrical narrative . . . -J. T. Barbarese -- Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 2000

. . .Jarman's sonnets begin the work of consolation and reassurance. -Ray Olson -- Booklist, April 15, 2000

A religious poetry for grown-ups.-Ray Waddle -- The Tennessean, Sunday, July 16, 2000

Jarman's style and virtuosity make him one of today's most fascinating and innovative poets. --Jason Schneiderman -- Frigatezine, Issue 2, November 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Story Line Press; Copyright 2000 edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885266871
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885266873
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mark Jarman's poetry collected in Unholy Sonnets explores the
relationship between what the soul desires and what creation allows,
the nature of prayer, incarnation, judgement, and grace, trying to
imagine a God that cares about individual yearning, gratitude,
suffering, and joy. Kenosis: An absence turned to presence is
confusing./Take Mary, who took for a gardener/One that she knew was
dead and in his grave,/One that she then called Master, when he
stood/Before and said, "Mary," and resisted/Her startled,
tender, human wish to touch./We want to fill the emptiness with
meaning./I had a friend whose father died in his armchair./And when my
friend came home, there was a drape/With the body slumped beneath it,
still in the chair./She said, "I knew that must be him. And
yet,/It was a shock to see him sitting there,/So present and not
present, this big man,/Filling his place as much or more than ever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By on October 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Jarman's Unholy Sonnets is a sequence of sonnets written to follow his previous collection, Questions for Ecclesiastes. Almost every type of sonnet is found in this collection. The sonnets are a form of devotional poetry, unlike what has been written before, such as Donne's sonnets, which is why Jarman wrote Questions for Ecclesiastes and Unholy Sonnets, as a response to Donne. Jarman's sonnets are a different type of devotional poetry. He doesn't just worship God, but asks questions about the nature of God and spirituality, thus the title unholy. One of the things Jarman does in these sonnets is to question God with lines like "Soften the blow, imagined God, and give/Me one good reason for this punishment" from sonnet 3. And sonnet 6 where he questions his relationship with God. And Jarman's poetry continues on this way throughout the entire sequence, fifty sonnets dealing with prayer, judgement, religion, and even science versus religion. Most of the sonnets in the sequence are pretty good, though a few, like sonnet 1, 3, and the prologue sonnet stand out as excellent poems, and there are a few that are truly horrible like 27 and 35 which are unclear and the rhymes are either sound forced or just aren't very good. But the well crafted sonnets outweigh the poorer sonnets.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Newberry on April 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Paradoxically, "Unholy Sonnets" are at once Christian-based relgious poems that challenge conventional christianity. A gifted poet, Jarman balances the hum-drum and the monotony of every-day life against the transcendence of Christianity. These poems present the paradoxes of Christianity also, the least of which being how one can both worship Jesus Christ and cast him in human form.
The sonnet form is perfectly suited for this investigation, as it, like conventional Christianity, is bound by rules and conventions. Jarman, however, moves fluidly in the framework of the sonnet form, railing against at times and settling into it comfortable at other times.
"Unholy Sonnets" bypasses "Questions for Ecclesiastes" by leaps and bounds. Those who miss the beauty of these poems simply don't know how to read poetry. There are no forced rhymes here. There are no forced themes here. These poems break with the standard workshop-model tripe that pollutes today's literary magazines. Mark Jarman may very well be this century's answer to George Herbert or John Donne.
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