I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. — Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916)
Charles de Foucauld, desert hermit and writer of “The Prayer of Abandonment,” was torn between his ambition to do great things and his desire for the hidden life. His story, told here in verse, accompanies him through North Africa and the Middle East as he becomes a cavalry officer, geographer, pilgrim, Trappist monk, priest, abolitionist, translator, fort-builder, and martyr.
“Woolfitt’s Charles of the Desert is the ‘ragged song’ of Charles de Foucault, attuned to the ‘sweat beneath scratchy coverlets,’ ‘the hoe and the rake,’ and to how a life can be ‘all green wood’ that, in the work of years, leaps with the strange wildness of faith.
— K. A. Hays, author of Dear Apocalypse and Early Creatures, Native Gods
“Woolfitt’s ‘pilgrim’s progress’ [offers] an achingly lovely canticle to God’s presence as it is both revealed and concealed in the harsh natural world of the North African desert. Richly detailed, lovingly imagined, and exactingly thought through, [it] is a compelling work of art.”
— Andrew Hudgins, author of A Clown at Midnight and Ecstatic in the Poison
“These poems — lush, accomplishedlyrics gathered by a delicate narrative thread — present a profound and savory confusion. Spoken in the voice of the book’s titular persona, Charles de Foucauld, the poems present genuine exultation, vertiginous truth.”
— Scott Cairns, author of Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
“Pastoral and meditative, Charles of the Desert depicts the eremetical life of a nomad whose awareness of Christ’s eternal love and a body’s chronic hunger infuses every turn of his spiritual and geographical wanderings: ‘My faith rose like a tongue of flame, / but I had nothing to feed it. My life was all green wood.’ In a voice laden with introspective yet cosmopolitan imagery, Woolfitt vividly re-imagines thiswell-traveled hermit’s encounters with the divine as heacculturates to Tuareg society in the Sahara.
— Karen An-hwei Lee, author of Phyla of Joy and Ardor