“Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." —Exodus 3:5
“The Holy Land is everywhere.” —Black Elk
The two epigraphs that preface Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s Holy Land introduce the reader to the central theme that permeates her poems: that holy places deserve to be regarded with reverence and that all places are holy places. In her afterward, the poet traces these foundational concepts to her Catholic childhood wherein religious instruction consisted largely of memorizing the Baltimore Catechism. “One of questions the Catechism poses is ‘Where is God?’ The answer is ‘God is everywhere.’ We believed this to be true. God was in church, but God was also in our house (a crucifix in every room), in the backyard, in our Buick (rosary beads swinging from the rearview mirror), at our birthday parties in the basement, and in our own bodies. And though those places may not sound very holy, they were. Because God was there. Is there.”
In addition to affirming this foundational belief, these poems extend the terrain, moving beyond the geographical and the physical to the temporal, the carnal, the intellectual, and the spiritual realms. They assert that our days are blessed, our bodies are blessed, our minds and souls are all blessed and sacred ground. The poet explores a broad spectrum of physical locations, beginning with poems set in the Holy Land and moving on to places closer to home, ranging from the west of Ireland to rural Minnesota, from New York City to the Texas border. She also probes the temporal spaces we occupy, experiences of death and birth, love and loss, desire and desolation that mark our human passage.
The English word holy is related to the Germanic word heilig, a word that means blessed and also carries within it the idea of wholeness. Holy Land attempts to honor both the holiness and the wholeness of our world—from Gotham to Golgotha, the Bronx River to the Sea of Galilee—and to honor the holiness and wholeness of our blessed and broken humanity.
"These poems—midrashic, speculative, and fearless in pursuit of wisdom—manifest, yet again, the linguistic elegance and profound faith that I have come to expect from the poetry of Angela Alaimo O’Donnell. Whether poring over a text, a landscape, or the faces of human persons, she is a poet who attends to and honors the inexhaustible mystery inhabiting every appearance." —Scott Cairns, author of Slow Pilgrim and Anaphora
"This is a wonderful book by a poet both filled with longing and in love with God’s sacred world. In these vivid suites of poems Angela Alaimo O’Donnell explores depths of belonging in The Holy Land, in Ireland, in the Pennsylvania of her childhood, in her daily married life, and in her relation to her literary heroes. This vibrant insightful poetry shows us 'the world newly birthed. / Proof that nothing is holier than earth.'" —Micheal O’Siadhail, author of The Five Quintets
"'Each new place we found/ was rich in what our old world lacked.' So begins Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s Holy Land. And true to her word, each place here—from her pilgrimage to the holy places in Galilee and Jerusalem and then on to Ireland—indeed reveals itself as one more holy place filled with the music of her splendid poetry. There is so much beauty here, in all the places O’Donnell lifts up in song, revealing to us again and again and again, in the most unexpected and seemingly quotidian spaces, the beauty of it all, and all with the eyes and heart of Christ, who indeed does play in ten thousand places…and more. Holy Land is an extraordinary journey through time and place, filled with surprise after surprise. I could spend many pages talking about what O’Donnell has achieved here. I urge you to read her." —Paul Mariani, author of The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernity
"Angela O’Donnell keeps one foot on the land and one foot in the numinous. The power of her poetry sends the message without saying the words. There are random touches of the holy, even in darkness and broken humanity." —Soul Windows Reflection
"Holy Land does indeed contain a world, one of pain and promise, and the acute vision that O’Donnell brings to its depiction is both remarkable and affirming." —Ned Balbo, Literary Matters
"Catholics should care about poetry and I encourage them to encounter O'Donnell's work. Her poetry is notable in both subject and style...her work manages to reveal joy while depicting life in an authentic manner. O'Donnell looks for Jesus in those she encounters, and she documents that search—and its revelations—in her poetry." —Nick Ripatrazone, Angelus