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Sr. Eva Hooker reads from newly published poetry book

| Friday, February 5, 2016

There’s a winged godwit walking along a lake shore on the cover of Sr. Eva Mary Hooker’s newly published book of poetry.

Hooker performed a reading of “Godwit,” which was released this month, in Rice Commons on Thursday night.

Hooker, a 1963 graduate of the College and faculty member of the English department, spoke about her experiences with the book’s namesake bird.

“My first encounter with godwits was at Crane Beach and Plum Island, both in Massachusetts,” Hooker said. “My next encounter was in the prairie grasslands of Minnesota. Godwits with wet feet, godwits making themselves fat for the long flight from Minnesota to South America by way of the Atlantic coast.”

Hooker said the bird’s name comes from the old English word meaning good creature and that the name itself is also a glorious pun. The godwit is famous today for its long migration, with the bar-tailed godwit making an unbroken 7,257 mile flight from Alaska to New Zealand by way of China each year, she said.

The first section of the book is called “Godsalt,” in reference to a metaphor used by Cormac McCarthy in his novel “The Road,” she said.

“I want to move that possession of salt, which is in the deep of God, into the possession of the soul as what I call inflorescence blooming of the soul,” Hooker said.

A poem titled “Solomon’s Seal” is named after a protected flower Hooker came upon behind Riedinger House on Saint Mary’s campus one day, she said. The white space of the printed poems is used for a variety of purposes and, in this case, is used “to imagine the touch of the spirit,” she said.

“The middle section [of the book] is called ‘Dark is the shadow of me,’ which is a sequence of poems which explore dark as shadow, a place where soul is a verb, not a noun,” Hooker said. “… In the heart of the sequence, soul is a place of danger.”

The third part of the publication is “There is work to do within nothingness,” she said, and one poem in the section shares that title.

“At last the day has come when I have a book in my hands that I made,” she said. “Carl Phillips writes that a lyric poem is always, at some level, a testimony at once for a love of the world we must lose, and to the fact of loss itself — and how in that tension between love and loss that the poem enacts there is a particular resinous that he calls mercy. …

“… In Godwit, that was my being,” she said. “Mercy as a kind of respite, a geography of heightened consciousness that is within us, as if bodily shaken.”

Junior Leah Alday attended the poetry reading and said she appreciated the references Hooker made to outside literary influences.

“I really enjoyed that she had a lot of Hildegard references, because not many people I know talk about her,” Alday said. “I learned about her in Germany, so hearing about her in Sr. Eva’s poetry was really beautiful.”

Hooker is also the author of “The Winter Keeper” and “Notes for Survival in the Wilderness.” Her poems have been published in journals such as Barrow Street, Cincinnati review, Drunken Boat and many others, assistant professor of English and creative writing Dionne Bremyer said.

The reading was part of the spring season’s visiting writer series at the College, sponsored by the English department.

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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

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