The Lives of the Saints

Suzanne Paola

  • Published: 2002
  • Subject Listing: Literature / Poetry
  • Bibliographic information: 80 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Pacific Northwest Poetry Series
  • Contents

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.
The Lives of the Saints
The First Letter of St. Paul to the Clones
Blessed Ludovica Albertoni
The Second Letter of St. Paul on the Human Genome Project
Patient 6
The First Letter of St. Paul to the Columbines
The Third Letter of St. Paul at the Playground
The Lives of the Saints II; Rosette
The First Letter of St. Paul in the Homogocene

"The beauty of this work lies in its intricate interweaving of medieval voices with modern voices, of ancient times with our times, of archetypal story with news story. This is no loose batch of poems, but a single work made from interrelated poems. The multi-voiced chorus recites-in soul-shuddering and very real terms-the terrors of our own times."
-Women's Review of Books

"The richness of The Lives of the Saints eludes description..At its best, what [it] is about is the breaking of one realm into another, and this it exemplifies with rare intelligence and a language as passionate and clear as lived faith once must have been."

"A definite must for anyone interested in interwoven styles and themes, not to mention carefully crafted poems that resonate with not only great beauty but power and wit as well..Paola's poems deserve to be admired: a good book to hide inside the torn-off cover of a hymnal while at church."
-The Adirondack Review

"Suzanne Paola's collection reveals an amazing mind. Her words flow in their own directions, bringing insight, taking us on arcane journeys to familiar places suddenly redolent with new understanding. This is devotional poetry of a new sort."
-Salem Statesman-Journal