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Canticle of the Night Path
Winner of the New Measure Poetry Prize
Judge: Susan Stewart
Free Verse Editions
Edited by Jon Thompson
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The poems in Jennifer Atkinson’s Canticle of the Night Path, collected in alphabetical order from “Canticle of A” to “Canticle of Zed,” are little songs of five—five lines, five sentences, five couplets, or five paragraphs—canticles to, for, with, and of all sorts of things. There are Canticles to Chipped Plates, to Dust, with Eyelashes, with Macaroons, of Rhymes, Rushes, Slippage, Stone, Shrapnel and Manna. Woven throughout the book, along with a series of Parables as if excerpted from her teachings, is the legendary figure of Mary Magdalene, as painted by Giotto and re-imagined as a teacher of embodied spiritual and intellectual practice. Some canticles are lyric improvisations quick with rhyme, allusion, and wordplay. Others are meditative investigations of darkness, pleasure, cruelty, or joy. All are acts of fierce attention to language, the musical possibilities of the lyric line, and the natural world, built and unbuilt.
With Canticle of the Night Path, Jennifer Atkinson sets in motion a deeply compelling sequence of praise songs. Whether their origins are remote in time or close to hand, the objects of her praise become intricately connected as each is illuminated in turn--by electric light, by candle-light, by lightning. She models a patient attention that gives way to sudden insights and the reader is transported by the clarity and music of her forms.
—Susan Stewart, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and MacArthur Fellow
About the Author
Jennifer Atkinson is the author of four collections of poetry—The Dogwood Tree, The Drowned City, Drift Ice, and now Canticle of the Night Path, which recently won Free Verse’s 2012 New Measure Poetry Prize. Individual poems have appeared in various journals including Field, Image, Witness, New American Writing, and Cincinnati Review. She teaches in the English Department and the MFA program at George Mason University in Virginia.