Poems in honor of a Benedictine life

Philip Kolin's longtime spiritual director was a chain-smoking oblate who fed everyone.

Philip Kolin’s eighth collection of poems is arguably his best. Reso­nating with a deep spiritual beauty that comforts, the poems reveal not only the world of the Benedictines but also an extraordinary woman—Midge Parish, an oblate who served the poor and disenfranchised for 40 years, living what might otherwise seem an unremarkable life. The collection also reveals a poet who has carefully stitched his poems together into something like a sacred scroll.

Over the past 40 years, Kolin has managed to tally an impressive bibliographic scroll as well. His childhood in Chicago in the 1950s and subsequent decades of teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi led to his preoccupation with another Chicagoan, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Kolin’s 2015 book, Emmett Till in Different States: Poems, reflects his commitment to addressing the evils of racism. He has also written extensively on Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, served as editor of the Southern Quarterly, and published over 40 books and 200 articles on modern American drama, with a focus on African American drama.

Benedict’s Daughter captures something of the evanescent inner life of St. Benedict, or what Abbot Cletus Meagher recognizes as the “monk within” many of us, not only in Midge Parish but in Kolin as well.