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Editors’ Picks Issue 1


Jesus Was a Migrant

by Deirdre Cornell (Orbis) In this slim volume of reflections, Cornell weaves the biblical stories of exodus and exile, persecution and relocation with the realities of refugees and migrants today. “Migration has caused – and been caused by – tremendous suffering,” she writes. “It has also served as a source of great blessing.” Cornell is at her best telling stories of migrants whom she has befriended over the course of two decades of social work in U.S. trailer parks and remote Mexican villages. She mines her own Irish and Italian immigrant heritage and her roots in the Catholic Worker movement founded by Dorothy Day. While not all will feel at home with the book’s deeply Catholic spirituality, we would all do well to be reminded of the biblical injunction to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger – and to remember that as Christians we are followers of a man who, like so many of our brothers and sisters today, had no place to lay his head.

My Poems Won’t Change the World

by Patrizia Cavalli, ed. Gini Alhadeff (FSG) Few moments in the reading life give more pleasure than the unexpected discovery of a really good poet. This bilingual collection from Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli will give that opportunity to many fortunate readers. (See her poem page 30 of this issue.) You may find yourself enthusiastically repeating her lines to unsuspecting friends. The fact is, many of Cavalli’s poems are irresistibly quotable – and funny and human and technically brilliant. Take this four-liner, for instance:

Lame pigeon. Ridiculous
lame crooked pigeon.
When they have defects animals
suddenly resemble humans.

The translations, by half a dozen poets including the editor, are generally excellent, which is to say that their inevitable failure to replicate the Italian in English comes off with warmth and grace.

Like Catullus, Cavalli is a master at playing the colloquial against the sublime, setting them up in a perilous counterpoise. She also shares the Latin poet’s love for epigrams and for traditional forms, specifically the eleven-syllable line. Like Catullus again, many of her poems are anything but Christian; the same, of course, can be said about the works of Michelangelo. At its best, her poetry’s intense, uncomplicated love of life and of the physical world yield a glimpse of an underlying reality – an “uncontainable splendor.”