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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fwd: Monday's poet is Eva Saulitis

The Poetry Show on EPIC Radio
Monday, 7:30 AM, 20 February 2017

Eva Saulitis was born in 1963 to Latvian immigrants and was raised in rural upstate New York. She briefly attended Northwestern University on a music scholarship to study oboe, but found the conservatory atmosphere to be "stifling, competitive, and brutal." Although she continued to enjoy playing oboe the rest of her life, she transferred first to the State University of New York-Fredonia and later to Syracuse University, earning a degree in wildlife biology from the latter university. When she took a job in Alaska, she fell in love with Prince William Sound, working first in a fishery, and later volunteering with orca researcher Craig Matkin, whom she subsequently married. With her husband, she studied a pod of orcas known as the Chugach transient orcas for over 25 years, a population that is facing extinction following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She wrote about these matters in two nonfiction books: Leaving Resurrection: Chronicles of a Whale Scientist (Boreal Books, 2008) and Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among the Vanishing Orcas (Beacon Press, 2013). She earned two masters degree from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks: the first in zoology (1993) and the second a  Masters in Fine Arts in creative nonfiction and poetry (1999). Her two full length poetry collections were Many Ways to Say It (Red Hen Press, 2012) and Prayer in Wind (Boreal Books, 2015). The latter is a collection of 60 poems, all but two entitled "Prayer" followed by a number. She was an associate professor in the low-residency MFA program of the Year University of Alaska-Anchorage, mentoring students until shortly before her death by breast cancer on January 16, 2016. She received many honors, including the Alaska Governor's Award for the Arts and Humanities and Homer Arts Council Lifetime Achievement Award. Her final book of essays, Becoming Earth (Red Hen Press, 2016) was published posthumously.  

This week's featured poem is "Naturalist's Prayer," the first poem in her first poetry collection, Many Ways to Say It (Red Hen Press, 2012). 


          after Ilya Kaminsky

If I speak for the earth I must sing. 

I must sing the same song every morning, sing

like the unidentified bird with its repetitive

cry, that nameless bird in the morning

who bleats & bleats like a lamb of 

the wild. If I speak I must crawl

along its convergences:

          slough & 
          forest & forest & floodplain & floodplain &
                    meadow & meadow & delta     collecting data:

Transcribing the falling, 

the hardening. The wet, the cautious, 

the curious quick licks of an animal

at the furthest

edge of its range, pressing its pads

deep into groundcover, marking

trees with its foreign scent, 

its foreign name. If sing it's because

the earth persists & this is just my brief

wandering between

trees alive & dead & fallen, on all

fours through the under-story. To breathe

in a windstorm is singing. To sing is to praise

Earth's madness, placing

carefully as a predator my tread

upon each, the darkest, 

the coldest. It's like dying each time, 

not crazy to pray: Let this day, earth, 

let it be given. 

Injured and blistered amen. 

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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