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Incarnate Grace

Incarnate Grace

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Moira Linehan


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)


Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

In her collection Incarnate Grace, poet Moira Linehan explores, questions, and ultimately celebrates her attempt to live in the temple of the present.

After learning she has breast cancer, the poet struggles to live an examined life. Alienated and estranged from her own body, she turns her cancer into “these binoculars, / this new way of looking,” and uses it as a way of fixing herself firmly within the moment. As she travels Ireland and the Pacific Northwest, her busy mind moves from the knot in her breast to the knots in her knitting to the illuminated knots of The Book of Kells to the tossing, knotted surface of the sea; from the margins of her surgery—clean but not ideal—to the margins of illuminated manuscripts. She links the mundane to the mythic, intertwining connections between scripture and nature, storms and loss, winter and light, breast cancer and embroidery. As she returns to her home on a small pond in Massachusetts, she takes with her the fruits of her travels: the incarnate grace of the ordinary.  

Vivid and compelling, Incarnate Grace finds beauty in the worst of circumstances and redemption in the fabric of daily life.


Moira Linehan is the author of If No Moon, winner of the 2006 Crab Or­chard Series in Poetry Open Competition and an Honor Book in Poetry in the 2008 Massachusetts Book Awards. Her poetry has appeared in America, Crab Orchard Review, Greensboro Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry East, Quiddity, Salaman­der, Southwest Review, Image, Prairie Schooner, and many others.


“Although illness is at the heart of Moira Linehan’s fine new collection, the overriding sense left by these poems is of an eager imagination at full tilt, transmitting through grounded yet buoyant language a moving sense of what it’s like to live in a world of shadows and yet continue to reach for the light. Here is a poet wide awake to the perpetually shifting character of the world—a world containing nature, art, and the human dilemmas forged by sickness or simply by time.While illness alerts her mind and sharpens her voice, Linehan confronts her hard facts as well as her deeply observed, fully suffered, loved world without flinching—converting all (an episode of radiation, a work of Japanese art, an Irish or an American landscape) into her own quickened language of scrupulous attention.”—Eamon Grennan

I must be satisfied with my heart, wrote the aging Yeats, who well understood this vow to be a fraught and even terrifying one. Moira Linehan writes of transience and mortality with a Yeatsian delicacy and a Yeatsian ferocity. And in response to the imperiling mysteries of cancer and aging, she offers lyrics of hard-won insight, clarity, and astonishment. The nervy purpose of these poems is to celebrate, as she puts it in one poem, ‘this body, here for the inevitable / disappearing and . . . soothing / a throat left raw by the unspeakable.’ This is a superbly crafted book by a wise and fearless maker.”—David Wojahn

“From a place of illness and ‘no say’ to an incredibly rich music, Moira Linehan takes us on a journey, a pilgrimage, in fact, as these fine poems move through restorative landscapes, both outer—New England, the Pacific Northwest, Ireland—and inner, that place ‘so far it’s the only place left.’ What emerges is indeed a vision of grace. Linehan’s fine-tuned eye gives us the natural world in stunning detail, and the glimmer of something beyond. Her language is rich and palpable, able to catch what is always just slipping away and stitch it into something that holds. Incarnate Grace is a book to cherish.”—Betsy Sholl

“If you’ve had breast cancer, breathing while reading these holy poems is difficult, sometimes impossible. If you’re a poet, their breath inflates your lungs with pure pleasure. If you love brilliant poems, you’re a reader. Please read this book!”—Hilda Raz