Black Lawrence Press

Saint Monica

Saint Monica

While historically Saint Monica is the patron of wives, alcoholics, abuse victims, and numerous combinations thereof, poet Mary Biddinger brings us a modern day reinvention: a Rust Belt girl fraught with dilemmas of desire, and privy to the mystical elements of the world. Saint Monica lets the holy (and unholy) unfold against a backdrop of the post-industrial American Midwest, in poems both rich with prose and pared down to lyric filaments. Biddinger explores the intersection between everyday life and saintly inclination, departing from hagiography in order to situate the heroine in a world of county fairs and awkward school dances, uncanny clairvoyance and unmitigated longing. These are poems for anyone who has ever marveled at the beauty of a collapsed barn, or hoped for a new patron saint.


  • "Equally familiar and strange in her wonderment, Mary Biddinger’s Saint Monica rises above the water towers and smokestacks of the Midwest, a saint transfigured into a modern girl with a persistent craving for muscle cars and tattooed love boys. Yet this Saint Monica does more than want; her yearnings are feral, carnal, and unflinchingly honest. She does not ask for God to take her walls away so much as figure out how to kick them down herself. The result: her escape route is illuminated by a slender and elegant beam of longing and melancholy in poems that make clear the clandestine nature of what we desire most."
    —Steve Kistulentz
  • "Mary Biddinger evokes the patron saint of female abuse victims in narrating the adolescence of a latter day Saint Monica. Ironic humor illuminates the poems, as in 'Saint Monica Stays the Course,' a hilarious catechism of teeth-gritting endurance. Biddinger crisply narrates these memorable tales that entwine horror and sensual discovery, using deft rhythms, head-snapping line breaks, and highly original imagery."
    —Rachel Dacus

Mary Biddinger

Mary Biddinger is the author of six full-length poetry collections, most recently Small Enterprise and The Czar (with Jay Robinson), both from Black Lawrence Press. Her work has recently appeared in numerous journals including Denver QuarterlyDiode, Five Points, Green Mountains ReviewGrimoire, JubilatThe Laurel Review, and Pleiades, among others. Biddinger received a 2015 NEA creative writing fellowship in poetry. She edits the Akron Series in Poetry and is a Professor of English at the University of Akron. Her first collection of prose poems, Partial Genius, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2019.

Biddinger Author page

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