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:
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
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.