"It’s been twenty-three years since the publication of Mary Stewart Hammond’s first book, Out of Canaan. Hammond’s second, Entering History, is proof that the poet’s consciousness or “moral intelligence” has been at work these last two decades, and we are the richer for the wait."
"For the days the poem and the story seem like they exist on two different planets, enter the narrative poem. Mary Stewart Hammond has written an entire collection of narratives in Entering History. Within, she tells the story of a longstanding marriage, detailing the mundane routines of the everyday with the same passion and dedication that she gives to life’s bigger, less ordinary moments. This book on her husband gives the reader a raw and intimate look at what married life is really like."
—Annemarie Marconi, Signature (Click here for the full article)
"Deaths and marriages, contemporary life, interplay of generations: these pages brim with what the whole world knows. The novelty is how entertaining and up-to-date they are. Without even having to eat the meal in her priceless "Making Breakfast," Mary Stewart Hammond's reader is bidden to a linguistic table where the tartness we must no longer call 'breeding' may well be hailed as talent."
"Out of Canaan brings together an absorbing mix of high and low dictions, a succession of jaunty and prophetic tones, a suite of unforgettable voices and haunting subjects. It is an original and representative family romance, a tale of one tribe transfigured into an emblematic book of wisdom and delight."
"In Mary Stewart Hammond's first book, Out of Canaan, the telling is a gorgeous, manic outpouring of lyrical narrative… Hammond is an original, witty, lush writer, mature enough to embrace her friends' sufferings, the mixed pleasures of a household with adolescent daughters, the rich torment of family life, her own childhood . . . There's a largesse to this writer, an irresistible radiance that catches the grief and joy of an examined life."
—Gail Mazur, The Boston Sunday Globe
"In Out of Canaan, Mary Stewart Hammond looks back lyrically on the Biblical South of her childhood and also looks around her at the strange new world of her life in the Northeast. Passionate yet clever, resilient yet rich with it and word play, Hammond's poems dive again and again toward the depths."
". . . stunning first collection… richly textured language and ambitiously extended narratives… The best of the pieces in Out of Canaan are hardly 'breath-edged' pennies. On the contrary, in their associative sweep and the scope of their elaboration they are 'As big as the eye / of the train.' But they do 'hold such power.' [H]er 'ear,' as she puts it in "Grandmother's Rug," her book's bravura closing poem, 'is full of sky.'"
—Sandra Gilbert, Poetry Magazine
"Out of Canaan is a book so intricately woven that it becomes one poem… This poetry is dense, not suitable for skimming, not a coffee table book, but one that engrosses readers so much that they lose track of any small talk going on around them. We are in a theater completely absorbed by the zest of a good play… [S]he puts more action and complex characterization into her tightly compressed lines than most writers could get into a novel… [Her] ability to achieve dialogue with readers occurs in every poem I pick up and indicates that Out of Canaan is a very good book indeed. I also have a hunch that it is a great book… [W]hat makes this book great are that clear head and that ranging, raging heart."
—Alberta Turner, Field
"Out of Canaan is about America, about family life, and about the glories and terrors of having a voice and the powers of invention. It's a wonderful book."
"This first collection of poems introduces a distinctively energetic Southern voice. Hammond's language fairly crackles with words that "escape rebelliousness as steam / from the snap-bean pot." In addition to weaving rich linguistic textures that offer surprises at nearly every turn, Hammond is a powerful storyteller."
—The Virginia Quarterly Review
"In Out of Canaan, her stunning first book of poems, Hammond evokes the poignant history of four generations of her Southern family. The reader is immediately attracted by the sheer sparkle and vitality of the language… A very accessible book, recommended for all collections."
"The confessional tradition is not dead, this superlative new book shows us. As fiercely as Anne Sexton, as complexly as Robert Lowell, with the formal control of Sylvia Plath, Hammond explores the intricacies of family and psyche… [T]here is a stern, unyielding honesty to Hammond's work that makes it penetrating, unforgettable."
“Mary Stewart Hammond’s first book, Out of Canaan, cannot be called promising because she has already arrived. These are confessional poems with a difference. Hammond draws on her Southern background for a linguistic richness and sense of play few confessional poets possess, perhaps none after the original ones. Her work exhibits the complexity of diction and tonal register common to much of the best Southern fiction… [She] also displays a fine lyric gift… [M]any writers could learn from the way Hammond grounds her lyricism in specific actions and integrates levels of diction. Indeed, in her best dozen or so poems Hammond writes circles around established poets…”
— David Dooley, The Hudson Review
"Mary Stewart Hammond has been called a confessional poet, but I don't think she fits into this category all that well. Although her subject-matter--a mother's cancer, a father's abuse, a daughter's disloyalty--may qualify as confessional, she never once brings down the level of her art for the sake of revelation… Taken as a whole, Mary Stewart Hammond's poems suggest, with an extraordinary and quite relentless intensity, that a cleansing of the human spirit is possible in a world that at every turn seems to deny it."
—Robert Richman [From an introduction given at the West Side Y in New York]
"[The] poems of celebration…are in themselves worth the price of the book."