Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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"Much life has gone into the making of this art, much patient craft." Louise Glück, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

An exquisite memoir of a life saved by poetry.

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.

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“Much life has gone into the making of this art, much patient craft.”

“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.

“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.”

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 Old Lyme, Connecticut.