EWU Title » Poetry
ISBN: 1-59766-003-5 hardcover
ISBN: 0-910055-31-9 paperback
Spells for Not Dying Again
It is Diana O'Hehir's great gift as a writer that she can encompass in language as bright and faceted as garlands of jewels the most bewildering of our common human experiences and the deepest most troublesome of our emotions, without allowing them the complexity or sentimentality which so often attends their expression. With the glyphs of ancient Egypt shadowing the voice and temperament of a fin de siécle Californian, this remarkable poet—already widely reputed for her previous collections of poetry and her distinguished fiction—has written a sequence of poems which are exactly what the title indicates, enchantments by which we avert the re-living of experiences too painful to keep contemplating. Ironically, of course, it is only by such contemplation that these "spells" achieve their great potency. Those who read and re-read these poems (few would read them just once) must find themselves, each time, purged in spirit as the rituals from the Book of the Dead effected their catharsis on Diana O'Hehir's ancient precursors.
Diana O'Hehir's reputation as a writer has grown steadily since the seventies, when her first collection of poems, Summoned, received the Devins Award. She is the author of two additional books of poems and of two novels, and is co-editor of an anthology, MotherSongs.
Her poetry honors include the Poetry Society of America's Di Castagnola for her third book of poems, Home Free. Her fiction has earned her a Guggenheim Award in Fiction and an NEA Fiction Award; she was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, 1984, for her first novel, I Wish the War Were Over.
She taught English and Creative Writing at Mills College for thirty-two years. During much of this tie she was married to the literary scholar Brendan O'Hehir. Her divorce from him and his death form the impetus for this book. She now lives with her husband, the writer Mel Fiske, in San Francisco.
A new book by Diana O'Hehir is always a pleasure. No one else combines worldly wryness with the eerie, spacey overtones of human feeling—represented, here, by the grotesque yet haunting imagery of the ancient Egyptian afterlife—in quite her inimitable way.
Diana O'Hehir's poetry has dazzled me ever since I discovered it, twenty years ago. Her work is open, generous, passionate and innovative. This magical collection will gain her a host of new friends and enthusiasts.
O'Hehir accomplishes her characteristic accompaniment of precise detail and observation, in resilient forms that wind and unwind with the sinuosity of a snake moving through tall grass without moving a stalk. The poems speak with unsettling candor, awe and terror; miraculously they are also full of compassion and a wry, mordant humor. The rhythms of deeply felt mystery are here, stunned into words.
To purchase Spells for Not Dying Again by Diana O'Hehir, please contact our distributor, University Press of New England toll free at 1-800-421-1561 or by fax at 1-603-448-9729. The book is also available online at UPNE, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.
To request a copy for review, please contact the Carnegie Mellon University Press Editorial Offices at (412) 268-2861 or by email at CarnegieMellonUniversityPress@gmail.com.