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I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Natureby Lucia Perillo
Synopses & Reviews
During her days as a park ranger, Lucia Perillo loved nothing more than to hike the Cascade Mountains alone, taking special pride in her daring solo skis down the raw, unpatrolled slopes of Mount Rainier. Then in her thirties she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In I've Heard the Vultures Singing Perillo confronts, in stark but often comic terms, the ironies and losses of going from an outdoors person to someone who can no longer walk.
With unusual candor and a restless intelligence, Perillo writes about how to lower one's expectations just enough for a wilderness experience, what it's like to experience eros as a sick person, and how poetry provides an alternative means to access nature.
I've Heard the Vultures Singing is a poet's honest — and edgy — reckoning of her attempt to maneuver through the world in a body she reluctantly inhabits.
"In this thoughtful and eloquent memoir, comprising previously published essays, poet Perillo (Luck Is Luck) observes the world around her from her four-foot-high wheelchair. Once an intrepid park ranger in the Cascade Mountains, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s and must now navigate the world without the use of her legs. Like the memoir, her life moves at a slow pace, full of bird watching, pondering and even occasional sex; she uses her heightened senses and a poet's prose to give a vivid, tragicomic portrayal of her current life and reflections on her "bipedal" past. Whether she's taking notes on seagulls, trees, salmon, poetry or herself, she writes astutely and gracefully. However, in her close observations, she rarely steps back to see the forest, and her nonlinear organization provides little emotional resonance. Nevertheless, Perillo's physical debilitation has only strengthened her poetic voice, which remains healthy, alive and breathing that fresh mountain air. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] lovely portrait of resilience, hope, and true grit." Booklist
"It is a delight to wander with Perillo into strange, imaginative territories. Always, I read her poems with surprise and (write it!) jealousy." Billy Collins
During her days as a park ranger, Lucia Perillo loved nothing more than to brave the Cascade Mountains alone, taking special pride in her daring solo skis down the raw, unpatrolled slopes of Mount Rainier. Then, in her thirties, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In I've Heard the Vultures Singing, Perillo confronts, in stark but funny terms, the ironies of being someone with her history and gusto for life being suddenly unable to walk. ("Ground-truthing" is what biologists call entering an environment and surveying what is there via the senses of sight and sound.) These essays explore what its like to experience desire as a sick person, how to lower ones expectations just enough for a wilderness experience, and how to navigate the vagaries of a disease that has no predictable trajectory. I've Heard the Vultures Singing records in unflinching, honest prose one womans struggle to find her place in a difficult new world.
About the Author
Lucia Perillo is the author of four books of poetry: Dangerous Life, which won the Norma Farber Award; The Body Mutinies, which received the PEN Revson Foundation Fellowship and the Kate Tufts Poetry Award; The Oldest Map with the Name America; and Luck Is Luck, which won the Kingsley Tufts Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Perillo's poetry, essays, and short fiction have appeared in the Paris Review, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker and have been included in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart anthologies. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000. She lives in Olympia, Washington.
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