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The Book of Awe by Susan O’Dell Underwood

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Susan Underwood pays attention to the world, especially the natural world, so closely that it inspires awe in her. Not only that, it also inspires righteous indignation at the environmental devastation that we experience everyday if we observe carefully. Beyond all that, it inspires her to write poems that are accessible in a way that leads us into greater depth and whose lyricism arouses our most penetrating contemplation. “Susan O'Dell Underwood is uniquely aware as a thinker and writer, and that awareness results in startling, vital poetry. . . . Every poem in this collection will shake the reader to wakefulness.--C. Ann Kodra. “The Book of Awe is the book that we need right now. Like the ‘gorgeous faith of roots against the sand's erosion,’ Underwood celebrates God's immanence in the world despite natural disaster and human error. While Underwood's topics--hubris, spite, gratitude, love--are ambitious, she centers her poems in the tangible miracles of canyons, fields, and lightning bugs. In the lovely image of a ‘little doe’ who symbolizes grace, Underwood gives the reader hope that no matter the pain, resurrection remains possible. These luscious, lyrical poems remind us that words keep us alive.”--Anya Krugovoy Silver. “Susan O'Dell Underwood's The Book of Awe is a bracing, brave, bittersweet report of what the poet has heard with her ear ‘pressed to the planet's pulse’ and to ‘the craving soil... rapt with quivering.’ In poems that ponder sequoia trees, oil spills, rag dolls, and jellyfish, Underwood finds the world wonder-filled, instructive, and God-haunted. Underwood shows us that the things of the world--a kettle of water, coveralls, snakeskins, rock formations--the things we observe and listen to and bide with can astonish us, can become ways for us to "know sometime, somewhere the wild inevitable beauty." --William Woolfitt. Susan Underwood directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Two poetry chapbooks preceded this collection. She is one of a significant cohort of Appalachian writers with a UNC-G MFA. Her doctorate is from Florida State.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee: The Iris Press, 2018. 93 pages. Trade paperback