Still Pilgrim (Paraclete Press, 2017)
I am amazed and awestruck by Angela Alaima O’Donnell’s Still Pilgrim. Her choice of form, the sonnet sequence, is a sign of her devotion to the best and most valuable of the highest literary tradition of the past. Alongside this fidelity, she makes the daring move of including what has been considered undesirable subject matter for contemporary writers: the ordinary lived life of women, and the ardor and anguish of a religious life. Still Pilgrim insists that there is a place for a mother’s garters and the Beatitudes, that the arrows that pierced St. Theresa’s bowels are the very same that pierce the new mother’s heart as she holds her child. Still Pilgrim is a remarkable achievement.
—Mary Gordon, author, most recently, of The Love of My Youth and The Liar’s Wife
If rhyme and meter are, as Heaney said, the table manners of the language arts, then Angela Alaimo O’Donnell has set out a sumptuous feast, if not bardic, then beatific, recalling a time when pilgrims knew to spread good word by heart.
—Thomas Lynch, author of Walking Papers and The Sin-eater: A Breviary
In Angela O’Donnell’s collection Still Pilgrim, we find poetic discipline wedded to discipleship, as handmaid to the exigencies of love. . . .O’Donnell reminds us that, while we are all in constant motion, ‘hurtling through the universe,’ we travel best by gravitating toward the stillness of belonging, attuned not only to who we are, but also, more importantly, for whom and in whom we are. Still Pilgrim speaks, sacredly, of this outward/inward journey where to seek ourselves is to empty our self into the hands of the Beloved.
—SOFIA M. STARNES, Virginia’s Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014, author of five poetry collections and editor of two poetry anthologies
Lovers’ Almanac (Wipf & Stock Press, 2015)
Lovers’ Almanac is a collection of poems that explores the varieties of love that human beings experience. Anchoring the volume is a 12-poem sonnet sequence featuring an intimate dialogue between a man and woman, each poem keyed to one of the months of the year. The book offers a range of poems engaging divine love, agapeic love, familial love, fraternal love, parental love, and homage, the love we bear towards artists, saints, and heroes. As the title implies, Lovers’ Almanac also explores the concept of time and the ways in which love is grounded in the succession of seasons–both the seasons of the year and the seasons of life. These incarnational poems devote attention to embodied, incarnate love, evident in all times and places, and celebrate the power of love to open us up, save us from the prison house of self, and redeem us from the suffering human beings are heir to. Love accompanies us throughout the course of human life, from birth to death, defying loss, loneliness, aging, and our inevitable mortality. The premise of the book might be summed up by one of its epigraphs, echoing St. Paul: ”Love never fails.”
”Here, among so many other poetic triumphs, are a perfect villanelle; a corona of sonnets celebrating a long marriage; a poem for the unfallen twin towers and the high-wire artist who once walked between them; and poems for Sylvia, Emily, and St. Flannery. The exquisite pleasure of reading O’Donnell lies not only in the encounter of perfect poetic forms, but also in the way her words cut to the heart and celebrate the ineffable, the ecstatic, and the contemplative highs of love and life.”
–Jill Baumgaertner, Professor of English, Wheaton College
Waking My Mother (Word Press, 2013)
“If art is what we do to break bread with the dead (Auden), and rhyme and meter are the table manners (Heaney), then Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s hard-won, well-wrought, acoustically sumptuous poems set forth a proper feast: haunting, abundant, free of pieties. As with any good wake, here the living and the dead behold one another. The kinship is astonishing.”-Thomas Lynch
Saint Sinatra and Other Poems (Word Press, 2011)
“In Saint Sinatra, O’Donnell offers-with textured terms, savory wit, and estimable learning-an exhilarating hagiography, one that insists that whatever it is we choose to become, we begin here in the midst of our heavy-laden days, and together.” – Scott Cairns
“These are extraordinary poems, lucent, crafted, a-shine with life! O’Donnell’s book is a hymn of praise that celebrates the least as well as the greatest, the secular and the holy, art and reality, “the maker and the made.” Placed strategically throughout the book are six poems of “heresy,” because nothing is simple here: firm in its faith, St. Sinatra sings, and sings all things. I do not exaggerate: this book took my breath away.” – Kelly Cherry
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“There is more than a touch of Elizabeth Bishop in these carefully constructed poems by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell. A quiet, but profound power is released in poem after poem as the poet exercises her talent for finding the unexpected blessings secreted within all the moments of our lives – even those that are most quotidian. From the tiny ‘pleasure of slicing celery’ to the ‘tornado that ripped/ the roof off your life,’ O’Donnell’s poetic world is continually replenished by a spiritual omnipresence that manifests itself as ordinary and domestic, but is nothing less transformative than grace.” – Kate Daniels
“In Moving House, her aptly-named first book of poems, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell demonstrates both her versatility and her mettle, flint-fiery and tender by turns. Here is a collection of grace-filled, gritty, vulnerable lyrics, rife with surprises at every turn, inscribed in a language we quickly come to trust. Here is the record of someone who has been through the fire and the pit, and emerged – thanks to a fierce wit and a hard-won faith – whole and healing. Hers is a welcome addition to the great tradition of religious poets, writing in an idiom we will recognize, a voice as much at home with Dante as with Melville and Van Gogh.” – Paul Mariani
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“With uncanny eye and ear, unfailing wit and heart, O’Donnell’s poems of hearth and home illuminate what is new even as they attend to what has been. I savor the grace by which what is Mine becomes what is ours. – Scott Cairns
“These are lovely poems that embrace unlovely realities – the hard life of ‘Coal Town,’ the families that labor beneath its ashen skies, the death of the father, and the loves of the mother, spiritual hope dogged by spiritual despair. It is O’Donnell’s superb, inspired language and forgiving imagination, of course, that survive the ‘slag heaps/ where culm dumps rise camel-backed,’ and in so doing, remind us of the salvation inherent in the art of poetry when it is performed at an exceptionally high level. Such is the quality of the finely crafted poems of Angela O’Donnell’s Mine.” – B.H. Fairchild
“Gritty and tender by turns, the poems in Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s Mine evoke a lost world – the world of an Italian immigrant family pitted and shaped by Pennsylvania’s mining world. There’s such a trenchant bite and unswerving gaze in these poems, and yet a sense of the real value of these people, who would otherwise go nameless, except for the care and honor O’Donnell evokes from this world which might so easily otherwise have lacked a local habitation and a name, a luminescence against the ravages of time.” – Paul Mariani
Waiting for Ecstasy: A Chapbook of Poems (Franciscan University Press 2009)
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Waiting For Ecstasy is a new chapbook by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell. It reads like Lives of the Saints. O’Donnell has been a professor at Jesuit institutions for her teaching career. Naturally, her works reflect the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola and the influences of Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J. Like the English devotional poet, Geoffrey Hill, her poems here honor saints and martyrs. Yet, not all of these poems are tributes to saints canonized by the Church. She makes saints of artists–like Vincent Van Gogh, Herman Melville, Anne Sexton, Antonio Saliere, and Frank Sinatra. The mark of the best poetry is evident here: the presence of lines inspired by suffering and sacrifice.–Michael Lythgoe