The award-winning poet Karen Solie's striking fifth collection of poetry blends the story of a seventh-century monk with contemporary themes of economic class, environmentalism, and solitude in an ever-connected world if one asks for a signmust one accept what's given?
Ethernan, an Irish missionary in the seventh century, retreated to the Caiplie Caves on the eastern coast of Scotland to consider life as a hermit. In The Caiplie Caves
, Karen Solie's fifth collection of poems, short-listed for the T. S. Eliot Prize, Solie inhabits a figure inspired by Ethernan, a man torn between the communal and the contemplative. His story is remarkable for the mysticism embedded in the ordinary; as Solie writes in her preface, Ethernan is not known for supernatural feats, but "is said to have survived for a very long time on bread and water."
Interwoven with the voice of this figure are poems whose subjects orbit the physical location of the caves and join the sharply contemporary to the mythic past: the fall of a coal-fired power station; a "druid shouting astrology" outside a liquor store, putting "the Ambien in ambience"; seabirds "frontloaded with military tech"; the dichotomous nature of the stinging nettle.
These are meditations on the crisis of time and change, on class, power, and belief. Above all, these are ambitious and exhilarating poems from one of today's most gifted poetic voices.
About the Author
Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw and grew up in southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. She is the author of poetry collections including Short Haul Engine, Pigeon, and The Living Option. Her work has won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Pat Lowther Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Latner Poetry Prize, and the Canada Council for the Arts Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award. Solie has taught in writing programs and at universities across Canada and in the United Kingdom. An associate director for the Banff Centre's Writing Studio program, she lives in Toronto.