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Cover for The Secret Gospel of Mark

The Secret Gospel of Mark

A Poet's Memoir

Spencer Reece

Hardcover

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Description

An exquisite memoir of a life saved by poetry.
 
"This is a portrait of the artist, narrated by a priest and a poet and a gay man with tenderness and searing honesty. Spencer Reece weaves the poetry he loves into how he has lived, the poetry as solace and relief, as confirmation and rescue, as redemption." —Colm Toíbín


The Secret Gospel of Mark is a powerful dynamo of a story that delicately weaves the author's experiences with an appreciation for seven great literary touchstones: Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, James Merrill, Mark Strand, George Herbert, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. In speaking to the beauty these poets' works inspire in him, Reece finds the beauty of his own life's journey, a path that runs from coming of age as a gay teenager in the 1980s, Yale, alcoholism, a long stint as a Brooks Brothers salesman, Harvard Divinity School, and leads finally to hard-won success as a poet, reconciliation with his family, and the fulfillment of finding his life's work as an Episcopal priest. Reece's writing approaches the truth and beauty of the writers who have influenced him; elliptical and direct, always beautifully rendered.


Praise For The Secret Gospel of Mark: A Poet's Memoir

"This is a portrait of the artist, narrated by a priest and a poet and a gay man with tenderness and searing honesty. Spencer Reece weaves the poetry he loves into how he has lived, the poetry as solace and relief, as confirmation and rescue, as redemption." —Colm Toíbín

"Spencer Reece brings into sharp focus a life of authentic despair and ultimate redemption. His descriptions are bracing, honest, often lyrical, and sometimes violent, and they are also deeply psychologically penetrating, characterized by hard-won insight and profound revelation. This is a bildungsroman of gay self-acceptance as the acceptance of others has inflected it; it is a book about poetry that is itself a compilation of prose poems; it is a tender but unforgivingly clear-sighted exposition of Christian faith." —Andrew Solomon, National Book Award–winning author of Far from the Tree

"Spencer Reece’s The Secret Gospel of Mark is 'a memoir-breviary, a poetry devotional' for our time, in the company of Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain. With extraordinary candor, Reece discloses the whole of his life, body and soul, as poet and priest, brother and son. It is an extraordinary journey of sexual and spiritual awakening, in the company of poets from beginning to end. A profound and necessary work, luminous and full of grace." —Carolyn Forché, poet and author of What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance 

"In a resonant, deeply moving memoir, award-winning poet Reece (b. 1963) reflects on love, spirituality, family, and his torments over his sexual identity. ... A beautifully written, engrossing narrative." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Reece's testimony is heart-wrenching yet triumphantly reassuring about spiritual resiliency and the consolation that is in poetry." —Booklist, starred review




Seven Stories Press, 9781644210420, 416pp.

Publication Date: March 16, 2021



About the Author

Spencer Reece's first published book of poetry, The Clerk's Tale, was selected from the slush pile by Louise Glück as the winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize and published by Houghton Mifflin in 2004. The titular poem was adapted into a short film by James Franco in 2010. Reece is also the author of the poetry collection The Road to Emmaus, published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in 2014, a finalist for the Griffin Prize and longlisted for the National Book Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. For several years he lived in Madrid, where he was the national secretary to the Episcopal bishop of Spain. He currently lives in Queens, NY, where he took over a parish when their priest died of Covid-19.