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Product Details

  • Series: Brittingham Prize in Poetry (Book 1997)
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; Copyright 1997 edition (October 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299157148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299157142
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

And Her Soul Out of Nothing is, quite simply, unlike any other collection I can remember reading in recent literature. There is an eerie precision to her work—like the delicate discernment of a brain surgeon’s scalpel—that renders each moment in both its absolute clarity and ultimate transitory fragility. Her language is quirky in the very best sense of that word; her use of syntax is brilliant.”—Rita Dove, Judge, Citation for the 1997 Brittingham Prize in Poetry



“A treasury of broken meditations and chipped singing, moments of insight and yearning appearing like bits of statuary plowed up in a field, perhaps more beautiful for their sudden unlikely emergence. Olena Kalytiak Davis’s poems find evidence of the spirit everywhere, in laundromats, in parking lots and frozen landscapes, in the panic of birds.”—Dean Young

About the Author

Olena Kalytiak Davis lives in Juneau, Alaska. A first-generation Ukrainian-American, she grew up in Detroit and has since lived in San Francisco, Prague, Lviv, Paris, Chicago, and the isolated Yup'ik community of Bethel, Alaska.  She studied at Wayne State University, University of Michigan Law School, and Vermont College. She was the winner of the 1996 Rona Jaffe Writer's award, and her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 1995, New England Review, Poetry Northwest, Michigan Quarterly Review, Field, Indiana Review, and elsewhere.  This is her first book.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've never read a poet who writes like Olena Kalytiak Davis. I suppose if some crazy geneticist managed to meld the minds of Poe, Longfellow, Ogden Nash, Dylan Thomas, Gwendolyn Brooks, Stevie Smith, and Sylvia Plath, then a writer similar to Davis might appear, but that's about what it would take.
She uses language unlike anyone else -- as a playground, a laboratory, a room with rubber walls. Her imagery is idiosyncratic, but always powerful, always somehow just right. Her rhythms pull her words to and fro, clattering and clashing together, bouncing off each other, bounding and rebounding across landscapes of dreams and portents. With any other poet, I'd quote some lines, but that wouldn't do Davis justice, for her poems need elbow room and time for their wonders to accumulate. With any other poet, I'd tell you, If you like X, you'll like this one -- but for Davis there is no X. She is her own equation, sui generis.
Few collections of poetry have so much to offer, so much depth and substance, so much sustenance for the reader ready to listen.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've been reading this book since I got it three years ago. It is always on top of my stack of what I'm currently reading; I never tire of it. Out of all the poetry I've purchased in the last few years, (and, I've spent my money on plenty of it!) this is among the rare books that I won't lend to my friends in fear that it should not return to me. Davis has a way of pinpointing heartache with such precision that I stand in awe. One of my favorite poems, "Should One Prefer Purity To Intensity of the Soul," puts it like this:
While you are gone, I keep the house
quiet. Did I ever tell you,
I once heard a woman speak of her loneliness
as if it were a small bird. Imagine: her sorrow
had a wingspan! . . .
This book is a gift to its reader. Thanks to Davis for writing it.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "klcovey" on December 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most strikingly, achingly beautiful books I've read in a long time. My credentials as a reviewer consist of nothing more than that I read a lot of poetry and i've since recovered from the narrow visions of grad school, which seem to breed arrogance and a need to attack. I'm not a sentimentalist nor a hack devoted to rhyme or juvenile renditions of emotion masquerading as poetry. But I know enough to know when I read someone GOOD and talented, and this poet earns that distinction. In regard to the first reviewer's cruel, ignorant, and UNSUPPORTED assessment, I would suggest that readers trust Rita Dove over the poor wretch who was likely searching for a place to use "doggerel." Some people love to show off their new vocabulary (esp. would-be poets). BUY IT.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Budor on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you're thinking about purchasing this book go for it, it will be money well spent. Reading the book is time well spent.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on August 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am always amazed at the synchronicity of the universe and the healing power of poetry/words. I got this book of poems in the mail yesterday and it was like a blue glass full of sunshine, a paper bag of silvery moonbeams, a box of perfect words with letters in the perfect order, ten dozen exotic orchids, a box of girlfriends with heads nodding up and down saying, "I know what you're going through, girl." Can poems do all that? Yes, that and so much more. Novalis said that "Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason." Poetry is a soul-soothing healer. Get some today!!

A poem can save a life and calm a weary, heavy soul. Words ARE things: concrete, healing, calming, comforting and consoling. I've just barely survived one of the hardest weeks of my life and this book of brilliant poems was a lifesaver, a literal lifeline. The poems spoke straight to my heart and were a salve to my hurting soul. Thanks, Ms. Davis, for sharing your heart with the world.

"The smell of ink is intoxicating to me -- others may have wine, but I have poetry." ~Terri Guillemets
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By K. Grannis on November 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Olena Kalytiak Davis

"And Her Soul Out Of Nothing"

The first thought that struck me about Davis was that if I had never known her name or seen her picture on the back of the book, I would still have known her for a woman. Her voice is very feminine, by which I mean that her observations strike me as observations that only a woman would make. I'm a big believer that while men and women are certainly equal, we are certainly very different (thank God!). This is never more manifest than in our thought patterns and use of language. Davis thinks like a woman, writes like a woman, but she does so casually, without needing to make a big splashy "I am woman! RAWR!" statement. For example, in "Another Underwater Conversation", she reflects on the way girlfriends will replay, analyze and break down every conversation between their friend and her lover. "...You turn / your good ear. Sometimes you don't want to hear / the way he f***ed her before calling / the whole thing off, oh, the replay, the revival..." (11). In "Thirty Years Rising", she references her own past relationship analysis, and how those experiences have shaped her. "...each man / with a car and a wife, the ones I slept with / and arranged, neatly, like a newly laid / subdivision" (35). Though men may, from time to time, engage in such types of thoughts and analysis, women are notorious for it. I like that Davis reflects these things in her work, it makes her more approachable.

There are a few motifs that surface again and again throughout the entire book. These reoccurring images and metaphors aid in tying the separate poems together into an organic whole. Birds are a big one, as are sleep, dreams and cold.
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