National Book Award winner Mary Szybist

Author of 'Incarnadine' and 'Granted' to read Feb. 13

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.
Not their curtsies or cross-garters
or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens
promising, promising

At least they had ideas about love.

— From “The Troubadours Etc.”

Mary always thinks that as soon as she gets a few more things done and finishes the dishes, she will open herself to God.

— From “Update on Mary”

Incarnadine is a fleshy hue, a blushing, pinkish crimson, akin to salmon or rust or rose, the color of pale sunsets, of angels’ robes, of water stained by blood.

But blue is the color that dominates “Incarnadine” (2013), Mary Szybist’s second collection: the blues of bright skies and dark oceans, of pretty dresses and ominous clouds, of feathers and bubbles and bruises long past healing.

Mary Szybist. Photo by Joni Kabana.

Winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, “Incarnadine” turns a painterly eye and lyrical, inventive ear to themes of love, loss and spiritual longing. Though loosely inspired by the Biblical Annunciation, Szybist re-imagines that iconic encounter — between the angel Gabriel and the poet’s virginal namesake — in a variety of contemporary contexts.

“I see annunciations everywhere,” Szybist writes — in butterflies and predators, in poets and presidents and prosecutors, in feathery branches that reach to the sky and blackbirds that tumble from it.

“Annunciation in Nabakov and Starr” mingles phrases from “Lolita” and the Clinton impeachment investigation. “Annunciation as Right Whale with Kelp Gulls” explores the sacramental violence of seagulls attacking and feeding from the living flesh of whales. “Invitation” calls for the divine with a physical, almost erotic intensity.

On Thursday, Feb. 13, Szybist will read from her work as part of The Writing Program in Arts & Sciences’ spring Reading Series. The talk, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8 p.m. in Duncker Hall’s Hurst Lounge, Room 201, at Washington University in St. Louis. A reception and book signing immediately will follow.

For more information, call 314-935-7428.

Mary Szybist

Szybist’s previous book, “Granted,” was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry, Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize Anthology, Virginia Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Tin House, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review and other journals.

Szybist grew up in Williamsport, Penn., and attended the University of Virginia and the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. She teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore.