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Mary Szybist Discusses "Incarnadine"

Joni Kabana

Mary Szybist went to church in her youth, but spent much of her time as a young adult trying to move away from her religious tradition. It wasn’t until she took a trip to Italy seven years ago that she began to appreciate some of the ideas of the church she was raised in.

In Italian art museums, she began to fall in love with Christian imagery, and in particular the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive Jesus Christ. Szybist says, 

The annunciation appeals to me in part because it’s a vision of an encounter, where a human actually perceives something unlike herself. I find the whole vision of trying to perceive something ‘other’ moving, because its very hard to do.

Her new book of poems Incarnadine builds on the image of the annunciation. Szybist (pronounced “she-bist”) used as her epigraph a line by Simone Weil: 

The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.

Have you read Incarnadine? Has your childhood religion had an effect on your adulthood in surprising ways?


  • Mary Szybist: Poet, associate professor of English at Lewis & Clark

UPDATE November 21, 2013: Mary Szybist won the national book award forIncarnadine.

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