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The Lives of the Saints (Pacific Northwest Poetry Series)by Suzanne Paola
Synopses & Reviews
"The lives of the saints take place all around us, under us, so much of the earth they seethe in it." In this new book of poems, Suzanne Paola brings her unique voice to the meditative tradition, with words that offer a fresh and breathtaking foothold for the ages-old leap of faith. The book is, in Paola's words, "a polyphony, a chorus spoken about saints and perhaps, occasionally, by them."
The image of the rose winds through the book, symbol of eternity and transience, gravity and folly. We find it in the ghastly bloom of the atomic bomb, in the relic of St. Therese of Lisieux, in the wool of a cloned sheep. Its image glows silently under the Waste Isolation Projects of Yucca Mountain and New Mexico, in the U.S. Human Radiation Experiments, in the altars constructed at the schoolyard gate of the Columbine massacre.
The poems — witty, sly, sensitive, and immensely informed — trace the spiritual inquiries of a series of linked personae adrift in bodies and a world made toxic by the residues of scientific experimentation. Paola's dramatic monologues begin and end with the same fictional narrator, a wry, cynical, cake-baking woman who, on learning of the atomic structure of all matter, begins a lifetime of questioning.
At times blasphemous, at times poignant and humorous, these voices are never less than heartbreakingly human, and the words they utter chill with their honesty. The Lives of the Saints is a stark, wise, meticulously researched book by a writer whose reputation leaps forward with each publication.
Suzanne Paola is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow-ship for 2002-2003. She is the author of three award-winning books of poetry, including, most recently, Bardo. Her prose memoir, Body Toxic, is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2001. She lives with her husband and their young son in Bellingham, Washington.
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