Books & Excerpts
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Dazzling and refractive, each poem is jeweled with crisp movement and deliciously musical words—provocation, inquiry, and insight open into vast spiritual and philosophical realms. DeNicola explores landscapes of her own passion, her mother’s decline, and her father’s death and imagined afterlife through the eyes of a true visionary. These poems, extraordinary in their hard-earned wisdom, transform the personal into something beyond universal—the possibility that each life, encompassing its own suffering, questing and small ecstasies, is really a stage towards a greater “becoming.”
— Leslie Ullman
The pivotal keystone of THE IMPOSSIBLE is DeNicola’s fearless, twenty-one part poem that seeks to realize—how a young surgeon, her father, stumbled from his life and hers, by severe rigor ennobling his afterlife’s insights into death’s convergence, body and spirit fused, erased in relief and regret’s grim pattycake. I’ve never read anything so powerfully faithful, so selflessly ambitious to assent to the soul’s truth—no poetry I know is so clear-eyed, so sorrowful, so stern. After this kenosis, or self-emptying—poem after poem astounds.
— Kenneth Rosen
DeNicola’s The Impossible is stunning throughout— however there’s nothing quite like the middle sequence of poems about her father, a Chief of Surgery, and his sudden untimely death by overdose. This sustained elegy propels the reader deep into the mind of a physician who “wanted— to hold notes/of compassion for invasions of pain.” We watch the poignant journey as the veil opens onto metaphysical layers of a higher awareness, (reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno) towards a “radiant exclamation . . . ./”white as the light which shone through each being/made of matter.”
— Grey Held
Deborah DeNicola’s work in The Impossible is possibly her best. Her poems, which come from the realm where the Muse Goddess dreams, are prayers and incantations of myth, love, desire and transcendental euphoria. With the rare ability to transfix and hypnotize, in a world luxuriously realized, a landscape jazzed with music, her beats move forward as each perfect piece softly explodes. These poems of the sublime light up my synapses like a sundog or constellation. My body aches with their intuitive light.
— Lenny Dellarocca
The Future that Brought her Here
“…the book is filled with Denicola’s magnifique poetry, her dreams, her intuitions, her own personal life, her distrust of men, so that what you have here is a profound theological study of the influence of the Power Goddess in the ancient and beginning-Christian world plus a personal confessional account that turns it all into something able to be related to.One of the few-few books I’ve seen in the last twenty years that I couldn’t, couldn’t put down. “ (full review)
—Doug Holder, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog
A dynamic blend of history, science, psychology, dreams, and visions, Deborah DeNicola’s memoir is a compelling account of self-discovery that is provocative and humble.
A poet, dream analyst, and college professor DeNicola writes about her struggle to live in the ordinary world of academia while honoring the competing call of the creative and the spiritual. DeNicola’s memoir shows her range of intellectual pursuits and spiritual experiences as she battles an inner war between depressive cynicism and faith and shares her lifelong search to heal the trauma of her father’s tragic death when she was a teenager.
Struggles between skepticism and faith, depression and hope, independence and attachment, creativity and financial security in the midst of spiritual searching, motherhood, teaching and writing are inextricably woven into the fabric of her story. Sharing the process of her awakening and how dreams and visions guide her, DeNicola stirs readers to listen courageously to their own inner voices. Her visionary quest takes her to the American West, Israel, and Southern France. Along the way she weaves together references from the Bible and the Gnostic Gospels, the story of Mary Magdalene, medieval history, the Templar Knights, the Black Madonnas, String Theory and quantum physics to find the repeated linkage between divinity and humanity.
The Future That Brought Her Here is published by Nicolas Hays / Ibis Press
In language that is both stunning and devastating, these poems enact journeys between earth’s shore and the shore of the infinite world, and back again. With heart and with courage they remind us that all we have is our naked selves, that love and loss are to be equally honored: “You can’t lose or refuse what’s yours.” — Maragaret Lloyd
“This book belongs to Mary Magdalen, the woman who, in the Gnostic gospels, is the confidante of Jesus, both a spiritual initiate and one deeply alive in the body, caught in the rich crisis of being. DeNicola looks to find a site of transfiguration, a mountain upon which the self is opened and changed.”
“Art and religion are inextricably intertwined. Poets as diverse as Czeslaw Milosz, Wang Wei, and the Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi have attempted to express the inexpressible in their work. In her short collection of poems titled ‘Inside Light’, Deborah DeNicola makes a lively foray into this tradition.” (full review)
“This is a marvelous collection–funny, tough, lucid, tender, musical, and intensely alive. Read it, read it, read it!”
“Deborah DeNicola infuses images with transcendent light. In every detail, mundane or miraculous, she delivers passion and precision:whether it is John a finger in a messianic/socket baptizing Jesus or her mother incarnate/at ninety in the sundowning hour. Hers is a language of the unexpected, of paths to the heart.”
“Inside Light makes the characters we know from ancient tales into people you’d meet just around the corner – weighing their inner lives, waiting for insight. I saw them, briefly in a flash of imagination lit by the poet’s crisp words; then they were gone. And I was a bit different for their light.”
—Robert Bosnak, Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel
Inside Light is published by Finishing Line Press
Orpheus and Company
Orpheus and Company is a poetry anthology edited by Deborah DeNicola that includes celebrated poems by Mark Strand, Jorie Graham, Louise Gluck, Sherod Santos, Jack Gilbert, Linda Gregg, Stephen Dobyns, Rita Dove, as well as a number of emerging poets.
There are many beautiful and deeply moving poems in this fine anthology, thanks to DeNicola’s careful editorial practice. It is indicative of how far archaic and classical Greek literature has permeated American poetry that this book can reach such a high level at success: at times the poems almost have an Augustan ring to them, pace modernism, such is their poignance and allusion. It is an important volume.
—The Harvard Review
By gathering such a talented range of poets, all of them drawn to reinvestigate the myths, DeNicola has created a diversified whole which mirrors the multivolcality of the myths themselves. Furthermore, they indicate a sort of group necessity, a soulful and imaginative investigation of what shape 20th century poetics can, or must give to these myths.
—The Boston Book Review
Orpheus and Company shows modern poets at their revisionist best, taking on myths just as they would take on a fixed form, choosing Medusa or Daedalus as an elected constraint, to impersonate, to parody, to politicize, to privatize, to defy.
—The Boston Review
Orpheus and Company is a wonderfully various and exceptionally well-chosen testament to the ways in which contemporary poets have continued to be influenced by Greek Mythology. Deborah DeNicola has gathered an extremely lively selection, from the work of our best poets, one that is solemn, whimsical and archetypal by turns. It is a project of Ovidian scope, a new Metamorphoses for our times.
Orpheus and Company is published by University Press of New England
Where Divinity Begins
Where Divinity Begins is clearly poetry written out of necessity. There is nothing trivial here, nothing settled easily. Deborah DeNicola has an uncanny instinct to locate her poems at the heart of our human commerce so that the questions asked are always the big questions, and the truths revealed always are truths that can only be discovered through brave acts of the imagination. Her poems wear these gestures in the form of good, clear writing and sensuous detail.
Where Divinity Begins is stunning— sexy, jazzy, somber and steeply Gregorian by turns. The poems view the world through an eye that magnifies and transforms like a prism. The voice blooms deep within a woman’s psyche, and speaks of the human soul, its myths, arts, passions and ordinary objects. But most of all the poems sing, and music here becomes thought, prayer, the food that sustains us, carries us on our journeys.
This book struggles with issues of isolation, lost love and friendships, desire, hope— in terms that include classical and biblical allusions, painting, history— what we might expect, yes— but also counterpointed against tanning salons, beached whales and a variety of everyday events, for this is a poetry where the everyday is informed by those larger issues, and the larger issues given substance by the everyday. Where Divinity Begins explores the inner life and finds a place where courage, vision and music—the poet’s voice—become essential and lifesaving.
Where Divinity Begins is published by Alice James Books
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