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Prayer in Windby: Eva Saulitis
Publication Date: January 2015
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After a devastating diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, biologist and poet Eva Saulitis found herself gripped by a long-buried childhood urge to pray. Finding little solace in the rote "from the fox-hole please Gods" arising unbidden in her head, she set herself the task of examining the impulse itself, waking every morning in darkness to write poems, driven on by the questions: What is prayer? What am I praying to? What am I praying for? Who is listening? Each day's poem proposed a new and surprising answer as, over two years, she traced the questions back to her origins, her Latvian roots, her peasant grandmother, her war-haunted father, her secret-bearing mother, her childhood Catholicism, her obsession with the natural world. Moving from inward to outward, among radically different geographies (coastal Alaska, Latvia, and Hawaii) and spiritual influences (Catholicism, mysticism, Zen Buddhism) as well as forms, these biologically precise poems range widely in their search. Unexpectedly, these prayer-poems, forged out of a solitary confrontation with death, take a reader not out of, but deeper into physicality—of the body, the earth, and language itself. As Saulitis learns, what is most desired is not transcendence, but for as long as possible, "her hands thrust deep in the world."
Praise for Prayer in Wind:
"'You showed me / a bog candle. // Nothing's been / the same since then.' With these simple words, Eva Saulitis shows how true life is lived when tiny changes occur. With her attention attuned to inner and outer landscapes, Eva writes poems that are a testament to the precarious splendor of this world."
"Eva Saulitis explores the web of connections between nature, science, longing, illness, and the continually shifting boundaries of the mind. In these poems, we navigate a course through beauty, terror, and mystery in order to reach a place for which the only maps are prayers."
"Prayer is often an inward gesture; the self in contemplation, in quiet reflection or retreat, eyes closed and hands still. The prayer-poems of Eva Saulitis's newest book, however, reach out as they reach in. They give attention to the birds, family, friends, machinery, history, skies and horizons. The fact that illness, which can be such an isolating and alienating experience, finally brings the poet into this rich, nuanced relationship with the world is both moving and inspiring. Prayer in Wind is a hymn to life itself and all that conspires to make it meaningful."
All Red Hen Titles by Author:
Prayer in Wind
Many Ways to Say It