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Half Wild


Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets

72 pages / 5.50 x 9.25 inches / None


  Paperback / 9780807131626 / April 2006

"The poems of Half Wild linger in the mind and in the body long after the reading is over. Part nature poetry, part theology, part road map, these poems remind readers that they are part of a much larger cycle, something that is at once familiar and mysterious. These poems speak to the heart and to the soul." — Magill's Literary Annual

Half Wild is spiritual biography wound backwards, spiraling into the world rather than out of it. Though it reflects on the paradoxes of our violent times, Mary Rose O'Reilley's collection hangs on to life like the bee "up to his hips in love" who "will fall asleep in the snow" and "wake up still kissing his flower." In O'Reilley's poems, human, animal, and mineral creations interpenetrate and share surreal conversation—even stones exchange stories of "hot times in the magma" and animals are listened to intently. Here sacred inquiry is grounded in a passion for the natural world, resolving questions through lyric, erotic, and sensual response. The poems of Half Wild revel in desire and longing as instruments of theological critique.

From "Twin"

You were the part of me

that gave itself to death. 
Sometimes I dream of eyes, 
sealed with a membrane 
of unknowing

like a mystic's veil, 
that open to my glance 
without surprise. 
Sometimes I dream

of perfect understanding. 
Sometimes I snatch 
at hands that seem to seek 
as through a caul.

Sometimes I waken 
With an infant's shriek.

Mary Rose O’Reilley’s first book of poetry, Half Wild, won the 2005 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of Modern Poets. Her five essay collections are grounded in her life as a teacher, potter, musician, Quaker minister, Buddhist novice, and farm worker. She lives in Minnesota, where she tends to animals and organic gardens.

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