DeFrees’s poetry is a study in contrasts, focused particularly on the division between body and mind. Radically informed by her 38-year tenure as a Catholic nun, DeFrees is a remarkable commentator on the emergent identities of women. Her poems read like prophecies from an oracle, shifting between black and white, hinting at a multiplicity of meanings.
“DeFrees is committed to rigorous, even ritualistic, forms and a dense economy and precision of language. [She has] the ability to bend intractable words and phrases to her will.” —Poetry
“Blue Dusk is a magnificent achievement, bringing together under one roof the best of her poems… It shows us from the very beginning this poet’s struggle to clarify the inner life, to maintain the wellsprings of joy. And the new poems in this collection show us that, in her 80s, Madeline DeFrees is far from finished teaching us how to listen and to see.” —Judges’ citation, Washington State Book Award
“These poems are history lessons from no book of history we’ve been forced to read. They are the best criticism for poets and readers—an absorption of prosody adapted, of poetic ancestry and kinship, sometimes in adoration, but offered slant, bravely spoken and sung.” —Judges’ citation, Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
“Blue Dusk by Madeline DeFrees covers fifty years of poetry, yet the selections have been made so carefully that the book feels freshly minted… These poems are reclamation. They recapitulate, and amplify.” —The Georgia Review
“Like Dickinson, like the saints whose lives were personal expressions of divine energy, DeFrees is acutely aware of her mortality, but what we experience above all here is a fierce celebration of life in all its difficulty.” —Prairie Schooner
“Her poetry reflects her past, but moves beyond it to create a lasting statement about women and the mysteries of faith.” —The Bloomsbury Review
“The celebration of revelations and relationships and words offers abiding pleasure on many levels.” —Tacoma News Tribune