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The Secret Gospel of Mark


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An exquisite memoir of a life saved by poetry.

About the Author

Spencer Reece's first published book of poetry, The Clerk's Tale, was selected from the slush pile by Louise Gl ck 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 Queens, NY, where he took over a parish when their priest died of Covid-19.


This is a portrait of the artist, narrated by a priest and a poet and a gay man with tenderness and searing honesty. Spencer Reece weaves the poetry he loves into how he has lived, the poetry as solace and relief, as confirmation and rescue, as redemption. --Colm Toibin 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. --Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far from the Tree

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. --Carolyn Forche, poet and author of What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance

In a resonant, deeply moving memoir, award-winning poet Reece (b. 1963) reflects on love, spirituality, family, and his torments over his sexual identity. ... A beautifully written, engrossing narrative. --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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