Saturday poetry pick: Saint Monica

In this very busy week, I was sustained by Mary Biddinger’s chapbook Saint Monica. These fierce and tender poems bring the saint into the twentieth-century Midwest, with its landscapes and scandals, the hard pull between wanting to be good and wanting to be bad and fast, as in “Saint Monica Takes Communion Twice.”

In both lineated and prose poems, Ms. Biddinger paints for us a cast of characters and with vivid imagery brings us into their longings and betrayals. We can feel ourselves in the janitor’s closet with Kevin McMillan. Some of the poems use repetition to deftly add just enough weight, such as the recurrence of “knew what to do” in “Saint Monica and the Itch.”

For a sample, read “Saint Monica of the Thaw.” But I recommend the cinematic experience of the complete book.

I look forward to reading Mary Biddinger’s other collections: Prairie Fever, O Holy Insurgency, and the forthcoming A Sunny Place with Adequate Water.