Imagine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, wrote her own story, arguing with the God who believed he had to kill her son to save the world. That's the premise of "The Gospel According to Mary," a group of poems in Requiem, Roz Spafford's prize-winning book published by Big Pencil Press, the publishing imprint of Writers & Books.
Requiem, which won the 2008 Gell Poetry Prize for an "outstanding unpublished book-length collection of poetry," was selected from manuscripts submitted from all over the United States, Canada and Asia. The prize is named in honor of Kenneth and Geraldine Gell, benefactors of Writers & Books, a literary center in Rochester, N.Y. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Dennis judged the contest.
In addition to the poems in the "voice" of Mary, the book's other two sections celebrate and mourn those we have lost who are dear to us, as well as those landscapes of the world that are glorious and endangered. It speaks about individual losses as well as about collective loss—natural and unnatural disaster, the civilian and military dead from the Iraq war, the potential loss of the world as we know it. Despite these preoccupations, the book is redemptive, full of humor and light.
"As the poems acknowledge the fragility of what we love, they exhibit a countervailing creative energy that expresses itself through forceful definition, a wide range of reference, and a rhythmic line that suggests a speaker who is deeply engaged in telling the truth. The result is a book that confronts our limitations in a way that makes us feel larger rather than diminished." Carl Dennis, from the Foreword to Requiem.