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Hosannas

Katharine Whitcomb

Hosannas is a collection of nine poems by the award-winning poet Katharine Whitcomb. The word hosanna traditionally refers to a shout of praise or an appeal for deliverance, and her poems fit both meanings. Whitcomb’s poetry is informed by her experience of driving through the Midwestern landscape for ten years as a traveling sales rep, and her resulting reverence for the people and the history of that region. The work is a weaving, narrative journey that asks questions and seeks answers by comparison and through hope.

Katharine Whitcomb lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was the 1998-99 Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University from 1996-98. Her poetry has earned her a Loft-McKnight Award in Poetry, the Grolier Poetry Prize and the 2000 Bluestem Poetry Award. Katharine graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and she holds a MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Her poems have appeared in many journals including the Kenyon Review, Pleiades, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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Excerpt

Provence

White horses shamble the reeds, trailing
tangled manes. Floating islands of grass for pasture,

each mouthful a salt memory. This swamp plain
grows loud with flocks of flamingos

who ride African flyways to nest in raucous congregations.
Barefoot pilgrims from Lourdes and Istanbul limp

down the unbending road through sodden fields,
Camargue. Eyes fixed southward on the holy shrine,

Ste.s-Maries-de-Mer, where Mary, mother of James,
Lazarus and Mary Magdalene all blew to shore

in a boat with no sail. A gypsy woman points
to her palm in the windy square by the boules court.

What will she tell me for these hard heavy coins,
for my leather shoes and bag of blue plums?