Although Mary Karr is known because of her memoirs, she regards herself as primarily a poet. She published her first poem in Mother Jones magazine, and her poems appear regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, and American Poetry Review. Eschewing the ornamentation of New Formalism (against which she inveighed in her essay “Against Decoration”), Karr writes poems that explore in plain style the daily struggles of balancing the needs of the flesh with the desires of the spirit, of staying sane and fending off madness, and of trying to discern light in the midst of darkness. Her poems often deal with family and friendship but are not sentimental, and they often are melancholic or deal with the topic of depression but do not descend into the jagged chasms of madness that characterize poems dealing with these topics by poets such as Anne Sexton. In her poetry as in her memoirs, Karr strives to create meaning out of the random disorder of the universe. In each of her collections of poems, Karr wrestles with the depravity of human nature and the mysteries of the divine love that has the power to transform and redeem individuals. Karr’s poems deal with loss and despair, hope and deliverance.
Karr’s very short first volume of poems, Abacus, appeared in the Wesleyan New Poets series, an indication of the confidence that many established poets had in her craft. On the...
(The entire section is 1658 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Mary Karr Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!