The World, the Flesh, and Angels (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
The World, The Flesh, and Angels was winner of the 1988 Barnard New Women Poets Prize, a well-earned recognition. The poems are vivid, imaginative, stimulating. They deal with love, freedom, desire, fear, life, and death from a fresh perspective. Reading them is an experience of delight and surprise.
The title offers a reversal of the expected that sets the stage for the distinctive perspective revealed in the poems. One expects “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Mary Campbell’s title reverses the implication that the world and the flesh are evil by substituting angels, messengers of good, for the devil, the personification of evil. The World, The Flesh, and Angels offers more than an unexpected turn of phrase. Implicit in the title and in many of the poems is the view that life and human feeling are to be celebrated, not rejected.
Angels are a recurring motif in the poems. Children often sense angels or other presences, but as they grow up, this sense of angels hovering nearby fades. Angels become merely intellectual abstractions. Mary Campbell brings them back to vivid reality in poems that are childlike in the immediacy of their images. These are poems that express complex attitudes and emotions in a deceptively simple way.
The motif of angels takes interesting, imaginative turns. “Scientific Explanations” presents the secret truth that the blind are the angels. The poem provides a close, moving look at...
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