(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Terri Witek was born in 1952 and became a professor at Stetson University in Florida. She is at heart a formal poet, although at times, as in “All Together Now,” she uses unrhymed free-verse couplets. More often, however, she uses traditional forms such as sonnets (though the sonnets of the “Courting Couples” sequence are unrhymed), sestinas (as in “The Docent Discusses the Massacre of the Innocents”), and villanelles (as in “Launch ” and “Mating Crows”). Witek’s poems are either extended descriptions of an image, whether drawn from the natural world or from an artwork, or small, anecdotal stories that serve as parables or meditations. Witek does not wrap up her poems neatly in an overly moralistic way. She often leaves her endings open to the reader, sounding a deliberately ambivalent note that permits the audience to make up their own minds about what has happened in the poem.

Fools and Crows begins with the section “Courting Couples.” That the first of these couples is Adam and Eve demonstrates the biblical orientation of Witek’s sensibility; in this section, love is discussed as a vehicle of spiritual unfolding and a means of human affirmation. However, Witek’s paradigmatic courting couple is Joseph and Mary, and in this she assays the paradox of Christianity in its encounter with human love.

The second section of the book, “Master Knife,” deals with the twin themes of pain and art in human experience; the master knife is used to craft a woodblock, but this delight is counterpoised by the hurt...

(The entire section is 644 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Sagan, Miriam. Review of Fools and Crows. Women’s Review of Books, May, 2004. Short review of Witek’s book in the context of other books of poetry by American women poets.

Witek, Terri. “’He’s Hell When He’s Well’: Cormac McCarthy’s Rhyming Dictions.” Shenandoah 41 (Fall, 1991): 51-66. Witek’s dissection of the redemption glimpsed even by McCarthy’s often isolated and despairing characters counterpoints the more overtly hopeful themes of her own poetry.

Witek, Terri. “Reeds and Hides: Cormac McCarthy’s Domestic Spaces.” Southern Review 30 (Winter, 1994): 136-142. In reviewing the American novelist, Witek discloses some of her own thoughts on spiritual desolation and abandonment.

Witek, Terri. Robert Lowell and Life Studies: Revising the Self. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993. Witek’s scholarly study of Robert Lowell, a onetime Catholic convert who also wrote powerful religious poems, is a tacit manifesto of her own stance as a Christian poet.