Wesleyan University Press, 1997
About the Book:
This elegant and moving collection documents Hilda Raz's experience with breast cancer. The journey, from diagnosis to chemotherapy to mastectomy, from denial to humor to grief and rage, is ultimately one of courage and creativity. The poems themselves are accessible and finely wrought. They are equally testaments to Raz's insistence on making an order out of chaos, of finding ways to create and understand and eventually accept new definitions of good and evil, health, blame, personal boundaries— in short, a new sense of self. These poems remain intimately bound to the world and of the senses, becoming documents of transformation.
“In Divine Honors, we’re in for a head-on collision with grief, the inescapable fact of cancer. Raz conveys joy and hope and love of others and of the natural world turned into poetry, after that horrible discovery and ordeal. The best of the poems are breathtaking—the sensuous imagery, the sounds she repeats for the pleasure of reading, and the surprising juxtaposition of images. I love this book of poems— grief and longing turned into poetry.”—Walter McDonald
“Transgressive and transcendent, Hilda Raz’s new poems are intimately involved with the physical, corporeal world, and constantly making the leap of faith necessary to its re-embodiment in words. These poems push the boundaries of what language can do to enunciate perception. Their beauty, their clarity, their mystery equally compel.”
Isaac Stern’s Performance
Here plants—gold and dry—rustle up
green at soil’s edge.
Music roils in the room
where I wait, my chest holding even
at the scar’s edge.
Whatever chances I took
paid off and now I have only
the rest of my life to consider.
Once it was a globe, an ocean
to cross, at least a desert—
now a rivulet, or a blowhole.
“I remember it was like story,”
Rampal said on the radio.
“He told you the Beethoven concerto.”
I am telling you cancer.
I am telling you like moisture
at soil’s edge after winter, or
the bulb of amaryllis you brought
raising stem after stem from cork dirt,
one hybrid flower after another unfurling
for hours, each copper petal opening its throat so
slowly, each shudder of tone—mahogany, coral, blood—
an ache, orgasm, agony, life.