“To be a pilgrim you must be a killer / of myth, a new invention of desire. / Every pilgrim is a truth-teller. / Every pilgrim is a liar.” Thus ends the first poem in Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s book-length sonnet sequence, Still Pilgrim . These lines, and the book as a whole, revel in paradox, in surface contradictions that mask a deeper reconciliation. How can the pilgrim be both a truth-teller and a liar? Doesn’t a pilgrim follow old desires, old paths and ways, rather than invent new ones? Thinking of the book’s title, can a pilgrim even be still? To be a pilgrim, after all, is to be on the move—to be a wanderer, a peregrine. Or is “still” here used less as an adjective (describing a lack of movement) than as an adverb (indicating that a situation hasn’t yet ended: the person is still a pilgrim)? In an Afterword, O’Donnell explains that the phrase “still pilgrim” came to her unbidden, “arriv[ing] like a gift,” and then suggests that the preceding sonnets be read as an attempt to unpack the phrase’s many meanings—its balancing of stasis and movement, quietness with questing. The sonnet is itself a perfect form […]

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