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The Sacred Place

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Copyright: 1996
Trim: 6 x 9
Pages: 370 pp.


The Sacred Place

Witnessing the Holy in the Physical World

Edited by W. Scott Olsen and Scott Cairns


Some of today's most significant writers and poets explore the relation between what we call the sacred and what we witness in the apparent world.

This unprecedented anthology brings together a provocative mix of new and well known writers whose poetry and prose broaches the possibility of something "bigger" going on, something more significant at stake. Is some powerful agency at work in what we see or are we just wishing (or fearing) that there were? Who can say? Who would dare? What’s most intriguing about the selections in this volume is that the authors do dare. What’s most attractive about them is that they resist answering that dare with reductions. They prefer the swoon of multiple possibilities over the relative comfort of conclusions. Various as they are, the works collected in The Sacred Place share a common reverence for the word itself, and perhaps best of all—they share a common understanding that no one of them comprehends fully what that means. They seem to desire instead a sense that the humble stuff surrounding us affords a likely enough habitation for the sacred, even now.


David Baker; Rick Bass; Wendy Battin; David Bengtson; Carol Bly; David Bottoms; Douglas Burton-Christie; Edward Byrene; Douglas Carlson; Kelly Cherry; Richard Chess; Katherine Coles; Annie Dillard; Helen Frost; Diane Glancy; Jorie Graham; Alvin Greenberg; Paul Gruchow; Cathryn Hankla; Charles I. Hartman; Linda Hasselstrom; David Hope; William Kittredge; Sydney Lea; Denise Levertov; Barry Lott; Dawn Marano; Katherine McNamara; John McPhee; Michael Mott; Kathleen Norris; Naomi Shihab Nye; Scott Russell Sanders; Reg Saner; Lynda Sexson; Beth Simon; Janer Sylvester; Ann Townsend; Ingrid Wendt; Richard Wilbur; Terry Tempest Williams; Charles Wright

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Regarding the Body ~ Scott Cairns

PART ONE: The Mystery
The Beautiful Changes ~ Richard Wilbur
Clearness ~ Richard Wilbur
Looking Outside the Cabin Window, I Remember a Line by Li Po ~ Charles Wright
Natural Theory ~ Kelly Cherry
Lt. Col. Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova ~ Kelly Cherry
Vertigo ~ Jorie Graham
The Invisible World ~ Jorie Graham
Pastoral ~ Annie Dillard
Mornings Like This ~ Annie Dillard
The Naturalist At Large On the Delaware River Marshes ~ Annie Dillard
Allatoona Evening ~ David Bottoms
Under the Vulture-Tree ~ David Bottoms
A Vision ~ Peter Cooley
Rosh Hashanah ~ Richard Chess
Yellow Lilies and Cypress Swamp ~ David Baker
In the Limbo of Lost Words ~ Ann Townsend
Evening Burning ~ Ann Townsend
Nightfall After a Storm ~ Edward Byrne
Aurora Borealis ~ Naomi Shihab Nye
Praise ~ Helen Frost
Deer in the Dry Creek, Dusk ~ Dawn Marano
False Cape Landing, The Horses ~ Janet Sylvester
Blessed Among Birds ~ Ingrid Wendt

The Meekness of Angels ~ Paul Gruchow
Buffalo Winter ~ Linda Hasselstrom
Buckeye ~ Scott Russell Sanders
Where He Is Now ~ Alvin Greenberg
The Bluest Water or Getting to the Bottom of Things ~ William Kittredge
From "A Mountain" ~ John McPhee
Tide Pools ~ Douglas Carlson
Widows and Dead Men ~ Beth Simon
Home as Eden's Picture Book: The Fiction of Sacred Space ~ Lynda Sexson
Getting to Hope ~ Kathleen Norris

Interlude: The Literature of Nature and the Quest for the Sacred ~ Douglas Burton-Christie

PART TWO: The Gnawing
Alfred Jacob Miller ~ Diane Glancy
Asylum in the Grasslands ~ Diane Glancy
The Clearing ~ Charles O. Hartman
Midway ~ Sydney Lea
Over Brogno ~ Sydney Lea
God Attack ~ Cathryn Hankla
Dancers at the Edge ~ Cathryn Hankla
Modifies ~ Michael Mott
Mondrian's Forest ~ Wendy Battin
Seven ~ Wendy Battin
It Should Be Visible ~ Denise Levertov
What One Receives from Living Close to a Lake ~ Denise Levertov
In the Woods ~ Denise Levertov
Poem for the Last Decade ~ Katharine Coles
Spiritual Fallout ~ David Bengtson
The Soul May Be Compared to a Figure Walking ~ David Hopes

Pearyland ~ Barry Lopez
Presences ~ Sydney Lea
Eve ~ David Hopes
The Real Surreal: Horseshoe Canyon ~ Reg Saner
Out on the Wild Fringe ~ Rick Bass
War Story ~ Bret Lott
In the Maternity Wind, Madison, Minnesota ~ Carol Bly
All That Is Hidden ~ Terry Tempest Williams
Piety ~ Katherine McNamara

Afterword: An Advent Nature


Praise and Reviews:

“A fine book. Buy the book, read it, and join that sense of community.”
—Texas Writers Newsletter

“The best [writers] are gathered in this volume.”
—New York Review of Books

“Offers glimpses into the beauty and terror of the unknown. The book deserves a place on the shelf along with historical and non-Western anthologies of sacred writing.”
—The Boston Book Review

“This collection is a smooth-reading, uplifting mix.”
—The Forum

“Worth a significant piece of one’s time-managed day.”
—FATE Magazine

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