Dale Kushner’s collection of poetry M testifies to the heroic dimensions of women’s lives. The urgent voices in these poems, including Mary Magdalene, Eve, the Virgin Mary, and women experiencing violence across centuries and continents, are bearers of the sacred into the profane world of history—of men and war. The speakers in a series of dramatic monologues explore both radical and tender moments that break through the myths perpetuated in the name of the feminine. The poems are an enduring map of how resilience is forged from suffering and how desire, loss, and struggle are the spiritual path to transformation.

Dale is happy to join book groups, podcasts, interviews, and panels to discuss M and these compelling themes. CONTACT DALE HERE.

Sample Poem from M

Mellie, United States, 2020

Day of dog walkers, sidewalk evangelists, abandoned theaters,
boy sobbing on his yellow bike—
I pray for you.
Doomed soldiers of extinct kingdoms, lovers
with padlocked faces, storefronts empty of ten thousand things,
haters casting the first stone,
for you I pray.
For the disappeared and about to disappear,
the friend whose mind is dust, come
let us gather at the banks of the possible,
trumpets and French horns blaring.
Stars of blue flame
ignite a riot of hope in our souls.
Let the torn shoelace repair itself.
Let the crazy doves out-sing the rain.
May the wounded and wounders awake unafraid
and breathe the same air.

Words About M

M takes us on a journey through realms of soul on the paths of desire, sorrow, and transformation. It is a strong distillation of the poet’s passionate engagement with fate and destiny and a fine distillation of Dale Kushner’s passionate dedication to the deep mysteries of love in all times and places. Be brave—drink, and savor! The poems will take your breath away!

—Murray Stein, Jung’s Map of the Soul

M by Dale Kushner is a stunning collection of poems depicting life’s journey in three stages.  The roads of sorrow and suffering, the paths of transformation toward spiritual joy and desire, and the longing to know and feel all that is holy are contained in Kushner’s work.

—Laurie Kuntz, on The RavensPerch

From Eve to Mary Magdalene and through all her configurations, Dale Kushner’s M pulls us through the horrors of history in language rich with gorgeousness where “ugliness is a city of miserable thought” and “even the forsythia wears a yellow star.” Of personal loss and pain, the usual tropes of the poet, she flings us the “looping brain / trapped in its cycle of desperate / repair” to save us. Never mind Adam and the latest Hollywood hunk, here we have the true poet’s real paramour: language. One could bathe all day in the deliciousness of this book.

—Alice Friman, author of Blood Weather

Dale Kushner’s M is a book of spiritual reckoning and superb artistry, reminiscent of Rilke’s great New Poems volumes. Beginning with revisionist retellings of the Expulsion and the life of Mary Magdalene, the collection then circles outward to include a wide array of monologues and character studies as well as some moving elegies for the author’s father. M also is a marvelously cohesive collection, unified by its empathy, by the power of its witnessing, and by its devotional ardor. As Kushner writes in the closing poem, “This wasn’t the underworld. I was ascending /and everything demanded an upward gaze.”

—David Wojahn, For The Scribe

Dale Kushner’s remarkable M transports us into the regions of the underworld and overworld where desire’s destructive and generative impulses cannot be suppressed. The inventive substance and form of these poems is startling, satisfying at all times: there are poems here of “mad prayer” and of fabular horror/wonder and of stinging remembering and of outcry and of despairing questioning. M’s three sections, “Via Desiderio,” “Via Dolorosa,” and “Via Transformativa,” build in intensity, offering a rare experience of mysticism. This book of poems is, to say it simply, absolutely original.

—Kevin McIlvoy, author of One Kind Favor

In bringing sexuality and spirituality together in a sacred marriage, Kushner stands on the authority of cutting-edge feminist theology, an impressive bibliography, and a church that finally acknowledges the Magdalene as “the Apostle to the Apostles.” Women will rejoice, discovering in these poems the sacredness of their own bodies and of the earth itself, for “Earth here is as opulent as their heaven.” What a gift. These are more than poems; they are prayers suitable for contemplation—intuitive, revelatory, and prophetic.

–Jean Feraca, Wisconsin People and Ideas Magazine, Spring 2023

Kushner’s collection of poetry in M asks that we see the presence of the Magdalen in each of the women we meet through her exquisite poetic imagery.—Kenneth James, “Mary Magdalene An Imaginal Resurrection” (PDF), Jung Journal

Dale Kushner’s new book of poems has what her wonderful first novel, The Conditions of Love, also has: empathy, tenderness, curiosity, and an artist’s drive to understand and depict human suffering and joys in some of their many varieties. From the stunning violence of the first poem, which imagines the first coupling of the Bible’s first couple, to the quiet final poem, in which the poet crosses a darkening landscape toward “knowledge of dissolution” and new life, Kushner’s passionate scrutiny animates every subject she touches. She is fearless, too, taking the risk, in the middle section of the book, of writing dramatic monologues in the voices of women from different countries and different centuries enduring wars and hurricanes and the savagery of men. She is a close observer of the human body (“skin/like linen pounded over rocks”) and she writes about nature with a freshness that can make you smell it. Desire is said to surprise Kushner’s Mary Magdalene as she walks the hills of Galilee, contemplating the death of Jesus–desire “sharp as the juice of wild onions on her fingers.” In the third and last section of the book, Kushner turns her gaze inward, toward her parents and her own childhood and, in a long and powerful poem called “One World,” to a moment just before her conception. This moment is August 6, 1945, when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and when the poet’s mother is at a New Jersey beach, watching a daughter build sand castles while wishing for a second child. Some decades later, this second daughter writes, in a moment of hope, “The mind leaps free without its winding sheet.” Kushner has given us a radiant book, her mind leaping free to show us the heart of things.

—Dwight Allen

You can order it now at 3: A Taos Press., A Room of One’s Own, Leopold’s Books, or Amazon.

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The Conditions of Love

The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her need to break from society’s limitations and learns to reconcile with her fate and transcend the past.

Dale Kushner’s first novel will appeal to the same audience that embraced Mona Simpson’s acclaimed classic Anywhere But Here and Elizabeth Strout’s bestselling Amy And Isabelle.

Invite Dale Kushner to join your book group, podcast, or blog, to discuss the compelling themes of THE CONDITIONS OF LOVE, including resilience, mother-daughter relationships, the ever-changing landscapes of love. Dale is also available for interviews. You can contact Dale here

Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right—characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!

Ann Hood, author of An Italian Wife, The Obituary Writer, and Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine

“Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone the Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother’s tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.”

Margot Livesey, author of The Road from Belhaven, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Eva Moves the Furniture, and The Boy in the Field

“The Conditions of Love has a magical quality…a careful reading reveals how Kushner uses elements of fable and myth to cast a spell on her readers, taking them to a place that both is and is not the rural Midwest of the 1950s.” —Isthmus

The Conditions of Love was published by Grand Central Publishing.

You can order it now at Indiebound, Bookshop. Barnes & Nobleor Amazon.

Read a Q&A with Dale M. Kushner here.

Download the Reading Group Guide to The Conditions of Love here.

Listen to the beginning of the Audiobook version of The Conditions of Love by Dale Kushner narrated by Tara Ochs:

The full audiobook is available at Audible.com

Excerpt from The Conditions of Love

From Section One

Mern: Via Separatio

The Big Bum, she called my daddy. “Let me set the record straight on that Big Bum,” she’d say. “He stranded us when you were a mere squirt in diapers. Up and vamoosed in his goddamn got-no-words-for-it-babe way. No note. Nothing!” He’d left a hundred bucks tied with a white ribbon, five twenties, in a fry pan. My father, it should be noted, had a showman’s touch. The story of his departure grew more elaborate, more pathetic and heartrending with each passing year. Occasionally my mother conceded he had a big heart. Then she’d add he had a Big Something Else, too, and the Big Something Else got him into trouble. “A big something else?” I’d ask, concerned. “Yeah,” Mern would say, her nostrils pinched from despair. “What would you know?” A wave of self-sorrow would sweep over her, and she’d grab at the nearest soft thing, me, and smother my face against her scrawny chest.

From Section Three

Fox: Coniunctio

Slowly the second time, like the slowness of a new creation, a different story than the old creation in which God made the universe one, two, three. Our god—Fox’s and mine—marveled for eons over the beauty of his creations. Our god took his time enjoying awe. There was the wonder of rapturous sensations, contradictory and compelling, their final authority over me, the wonder of being two Eunices, one enthralled, the other cataloging her pleasure, as if some part was a turbulent wind contained within a vast, calmer atmosphere. The wonder of all those sly, enfolded places, of our bodies, tarnished and gleaming, rubies, iron, salt, and bone.


A teenage girl endures fire, flood and the loss of her parents in this bracing, oddly uplifting debut.

Kushner seems to have taken more than a few lessons from Joyce Carol Oates about both crafting a novel with a broad scope and putting female characters through the wringer. But there’s also a lightness to Eunice’s narration that keeps the Job-ian incidents from feeling oppressive—she’s observant, witty and genuinely matures across the nine years in which the novel is set… Kushner is remarkably poised for a first-time novelist, offering an interesting adolescent who’s possessed of more than a little of Huck Finn’s pioneer spirit.

A fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over.

Kirkus Reviews

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Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting—


The Conditions of Love is the debut novel of Dale M. Kushner, a poet and writer in Wisconsin. It moves slowly and gingerly during its opening section when Eunice is a preteen, and it might easily be viewed at the start as a coming-of-age book for a younger set of readers. But by the end of that section, when facts-of-life shocks begin to strike, it turns into a moving, at times jolting, saga.

Kushner’s scenes, like her characters, are expertly sketched, vivid and memorable. . . .  Engrossing to the end, this is a fine first novel.

Kendall Weaver, The Associated Press

Kushner deftly captures Eunice in all her awkward years as well as her adult relationship with Fox. The setting—small-town Midwest—means that Eunice remains almost untouched by social and political events of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Instead, the period comes out in the small details…This is a beautifully written book, demanding time and attention.

It’s a tribute to Dale Kushner’s talent that in her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, she can pack so much emotional reality in so few words: maternal narcissism in a sentence, family dysfunction in a paragraph.

Review in THE RUMPUS by Kevin O’Kelly

“In The Conditions of Love Dale Kushner portrays with wonderful empathy a young girl’s journey towards adulthood. Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone that Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother’s tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.”

Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, and The Boy in the Field

“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right–characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!”

Ann Hood, author of An Italian WifeThe Obituary Writer, and Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine

With her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, poet Dale M. Kushner has created a layered examination of love in all its forms and how it impacts and shapes one girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s from childhood to maturity.. . .

This is a book that begs to be read slowly. Kushner’s history with poetry serves her well. Her prose causes the reader to slow down and relish the words. She utilizes the five senses throughout the book, which gives the reader a sense of real intimacy with Eunice. She beautifully recounts the physical act of Eunice’s neighbor, Mr. Tabachnik, putting on an opera record, and then she tops it by describing the powerful music washing over a young Eunice.

The Conditions of Love is an engaging story written in a lyrical style. It’s a stunningly self-assured novel for a debut, and it leaves the reader hoping that Kushner will write a second.

Josh Mallory, Bookreporter

“Dale Kushner is a remarkable mix of passion and perception. As a storyteller, she has the ability to let the mysterious force of life show itself through the smallest piece of dirt or doubt. Her depth and experience surface through her writing as a wise companion to help us on our way.”

Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and As Far As the Heart Can See

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