DALE KUSHNER’S DEBUT COLLECTION OF POETRY PUBLISHED BY 3: A TAOS PRESS
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.
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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.
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