In Karr’s Sinners Welcome, there is a strong focus on the redemption that the love of Jesus Christ offers to those who accept him into their lives. The poems dealing with the persona before her conversion to Catholicism depict misery and despair but always hint that Jesus is ready to save those willing to be saved by him. Sadness, tragedy, and nihilism are not the only alternatives contemporary Western life has to offer, the poet suggests. Christianity is a powerful and life-saving option. This theme runs throughout her poetry.
In this vein, the title poem celebrates the persona’s submission to Jesus as a key event. Religious conversion is told in highly personal as well as biblical terms. As the persona opens her shirt to show Jesus her burning heart that his love has ignited, she feels taken up by him like the proverbial lamb of Christian symbolism. Yet “Sinners Welcome” further widens its frame of reference by likening Jesus to the unlikely figure of Ulysses of Greek mythology. Like Ulysses finally coming home to Greece, the persona marvels at Christ’s arrival in her own world. Out of her union with Jesus, she feels joy germinating from the seed of her newfound faith.
A strong theme is the poet’s Jesuit-inspired meditation on the life of Jesus. This is told in the five poems of the “Descending Theology” cycle. Here, Karr combines naturalism with biblical spiritualism. There is the starkly realistic description of...
(The entire section is 423 words.)