Where Outside the Body Is the Soul Today

Melissa Kwasny

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  • Published: October 2017
  • Subject Listing: Literature / Poetry; Pacific Northwest
  • Bibliographic information: 96 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Pacific Northwest Poetry Series
  • Contents

Where Outside the Body Is the Soul Today comprises two interwoven series-one of linked prose poems called "Another Letter to the Soul" and one of individual lined poems that explore the connection between anima and animal. The volume speaks to and questions the ancient concept of the soul and its contemporary manifestations, including the damaged soul, the American soul, and the blind, gagged soul of history.

Melissa Kwasny does not define the soul in traditional religious terms, but in a shamanic, perhaps ecological sense, as the part of being that continues its existence after death. The poems in "Another Letter to the Soul" point inward, addressing the human soul directly, while the individual lined poems search outward, sensing the soul in the plants, animals, rocks, waters, and winds that surround us.
This is Melissa Kwasny's sixth book of poems. Her previous collections include Pictograph, Reading Novalis in Montana, and The Nine Senses. She is also the author of Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. She has won both the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award and the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America.

"Kwasny has a rare lyric intelligence that can illuminate the most complexly layered quest for understanding without attempting to simplify its parts. These poems never shrink from the most intricate and difficult questions that we, as humans, face."
-Rusty Morrison, author of Whethering and After Urgency

"Kwasny gives us here the book our age most desperately needs-not only a book that searches through the self for all the ancestors, all the dead, which makes of violence not despair but threshold to radical repair-a book that asks what is the soul. And the soul is no possession. It is instead what we are possessed by-and soul isn't one thing, but all things, everything, from the herd of mule-deer wary at our own presence, to the soil that bears the plants that bear the seeds the goldfinches feed on, and yes, the soul is those goldfinches, too."
-Dan Beachy-Quick, author of Circle's Apprentice

"I can't shake the feeling that this work is haunted by the spirits of the living earth. Revelatory and resplendent, Where Outside the Body Is the Soul Today is an altar to a higher vision, an elegant meditation fastened to both the inconceivable and the conceivable, the immortal and the material world."
-Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red

The Hide and Skin Handbook
1. The Deer People
2. Another Letter to the Soul
3. The Blue Heron People
4. Another Letter to the Soul
5. The Hawk People
6. Another Letter to the Soul
7. The Creek People
8. Another Letter to the Soul
Notes and Acknowledgments
About the Author

"In Where Outside the Body Is the Soul Today, Kwasny explores [the soul] like she's a hundred Wallace Stevenses looking at a blackbird (if the blackbird was a soul) and the result is a book that gives 'soul' the kind of in-depth attention it's needed, in a way that feels fresh and specific and full. . . . This is a collection that butts up against the idea that the soul is a pure, untarnished entity fit only for some afterlife in a heaven away from earth. It's also a collection about human limitations. The soul portrayed here is beautiful and messy, and our perception of it can't really ever be separated from the bodies we live in."
-Erika Fredrickson, Missoula Independent