A Quorum of Saints (Paperback)
Antrim House, 9781943826148, 160pp.
Publication Date: August 15, 2016
A Quorum of Saints may comprise "the most unusual and entertaining Lives of the Saints ever written." Grennan goes on to say this: "Rennie McQuilkin has composed a spirited set of short, often humorous biographies of energetic, eccentric men and women caught up in and confronting--whether in legend or fact--the toils of their own times, from the First Century A.D. to the present day. With the down-to-earth St. Francis as a kind of spiritual guide, the poet mixes the comic with the awful, the tender with the unimaginably violent, the sphere of articulated spirituality with the ferocity of the secular, political, historical world. Without any of the melodramatic signs of rapture, he can still communicate what is the signal mark of his collection--joy: joy residing in a plainspoken, gritty, close-to-home language, evoking like religious paintings of an earlier age the ordinary world the saints and their often extraordinary actions inhabited. Stories of these spirit-startling men and women are here translated into a modern, skeptical yet always affirming idiom. What I most enjoy as a reader is McQuilkin's own brand of sidelong piety that offers humor, irony, tenderness, and fellow feeling 'every bless d day.' " In their fierce delineation of crimes perpetrated against the saints of the past as well as their equal and opposite praise of the qualities of mercy and love that the truly brave deomonstrate, the poems in this book are directly pertinent to the state of the modern world, both its crimes against humanity and its potential for true grace. In his preface, the author explains how the book came to be. He writes, "While under the influence of John L. Stanizzi's Halleluiah Time, I contracted hagiophilia and began writing a daily saint-of-the-day poem from late July to the end of September in 2015, and occasionally thereafter. The poems in this compendium are, for the most part, the result of my addiction, though a few were written earlier. One of the saints herein was encountered on the road, another in my backyard, and in some cases they are saints in spirit only, but for the most part they are the traditional sort. My fascination may have as much to do with the energy and eccentricity of the saints as with their purity, though given the current savagery of the world, saintly lives offer a welcome contrast. (Unhappily, a few of the saints are a bit savage themselves.) I also admit to loving the dreamlike legends of the saints and am touched by the way those legends display our need to transfigure the terrible and mythologize the mundane. I do not love the intolerance and brutality encountered by the saints of every period, including our own. The more things change, the more they don't."