Witchy & Weird Poem of the Week: “Magdalene–The Seven Devils” by Marie Howe

Here the Moon-Birds will sacrifice to you, our readers, a weekly poem which has caught our eye(s)—poems which invoke, in whatever way, witchy-ness, spooky-ness, the sacred feminine, the mysterious, or the otherworldly. 


I suspect Marie Howe of being an actual goddess walking among us–and I don’t just say that because she teaches in my MFA program and is an occasional visitor at my house and has a mane of long gloriously curly hair that makes her look otherworldly at all times–I say that because her poetry has the power to knock the breath out of me. It’s so vital, and human, and alive. Pick up any of her collections for an example, really, but the one I keep turning over in my head today is from her most recent collection Magdalene: Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017). The poem is question is “Magdalene–The Seven Devils,” and it is extraordinary.


Taking Luke 8:2 as a jumping off point, the poem’s narrator moves and circles through a meditation on her seven devils, which change and recur and take the form of all the sorts of modern sins and fears and ticks and bad habits and worries people will be able to recognize in themselves–they are both universal, and specific, because pulled together and framed as they are, the devils paint the outline of one woman’s mind.


I can’t read this poem without taking a long, hard look inwards, for my own “envy, disguised as compassion;” my own fearful, uncanny sense of being just a bundle of liquid and meat encased in a thin layer of skin; my own personal superstitions; the way I don’t allow myself to belong to anyone. There are moments of levity too–devils of never-done laundry and perennial busyness–which bring me a smile of recognition and a flash of the canny, but underneath the poem is the uneasy (uncanny) awareness of the devils, which is expressed more in outline of absence than in explicit text:


“The underneath. That was the first devil. It was always with me.”


Her poetry collections are available on IndieBound and Amazon.


For further reading:

Marie’s Website

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

Wickedly Yours,

Baba Yaga

Follow me on Twitter: @abitunsettling


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