Holly J. Hughes

Holly J. Hughes is author of the chapbook Passings (Expedition Press, 2016), Sailing by Ravens (University of Alaska Press, 2014), coauthor of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (Skinner House Press, 2012), editor of the award-winning anthology Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009), and the author of the chapbook Boxing the Compass (Floating Bridge Press, 2007).

Reading from Passings in Minneapolis

Sunday, September 4, 5 p.m. at Magers & Quinn Booksellers

Available Now from Expedition Press: Passings

Holly and her dog, Fox.

Holly and her dog, Fox.
Photo credit: Isolde Pierce.

Passenger pigeon. Carolina parakeet. Eskimo curlew. Heath hen. In a timely, moving collection of elegies, Holly J. Hughes gives voice to these and other bird species that no longer fill our skies. If their names sound as a litany of the hundreds of species we’ve lost, these fifteen poems ring as a reminder that their stories are still with us. In clear, well-crafted poems, Hughes serves as witness to these birds’ stories, offering each a poignant account that acts as a cautionary tale for the many species whose habitats now face threats from climate change. In her preface, Hughes introduces us to the birds she first knew and loved, and her impassioned afterword reminds us that it’s not too late to learn from these birds’ extinction and take action to protect the species that remain. “Take note,” she writes. “These birds are singing to us. We must listen.”

Passings is published in two limited editions–a deluxe edition and a trade edition, both bound by hand with letterpress covers. For more information and to order a copy, visit the Expedition Press website.

Praise for Passings

“Holly Hughes’s elegiac meditations on birds that have vanished from earth give us a glimpse of the avian beauty that once filled our skies, and they echo with a sobering reminder of what we still stand to lose…. Hughes gives eloquent voice to the voiceless in these poems, and strikes a heartfelt call to awareness.”–Tim McNulty, author of Ascendance

“In poems at once heartbreaking and illuminating, Holly Hughes gives extinction a very personal face. She makes it clear that the bell tolls not only for the fifteen species she elegizes, but for us as well. Her words prompt us to love and revere the beauty and music of the birds still left, and to remember their well-being in all the choices we make.”–Lorraine Anderson, editor of Earth & Eros: A Celebration in Words & Photographs

Sailing by Ravens, from University of Alaska Press

Using a variety of poetic forms, former Alaskan salmon gillnetter, mariner, and naturalist Holly J. Hughes deftly explores how we find our way, at sea, in love, and in life.  Hughes draws from more than 30 seasons working at sea, offering a lyrical view of the history of navigation, plumbing its metaphorical richness.  From the four points of the compass, Hughes navigates “the wavering, certain path” of a woman’s heart, learning to trust a deeper knowledge. This collection offers wisdom culled from direct experience and careful attention, taking us with her in her quest to chart her own course.  “How will she learn to ride the swell, let the earth curve her?” This poet’s questions open us to possibilities as vast as the ocean.

University of Alaska Press’s Alaska Literary Series: http://www.alaska.edu/uapress/alaska-literary-series/

See the article about Sailing by Ravens in Cascadia Weekly.

Read Tim McNulty’s review of Sailing by Ravens from Raven Chronicles.
Read Janie Miller’s review of Sailing by Ravens in Poetry Northwest.

Reading Holly Hughes’s courageous book one becomes unmoored, adrift, even lost with its speaker. Hughes’s gift to us is a poet’s interior map taken from her experience as a navigator, plus extensive reading about the sea. According to Rilke, art must bear witness to a great solitude, and Hughes reveals the compass points of a searching heart plunged into a solitude whose terms are nothing less than to agree to being lost, to drift, and, as in the title, to learn to trust the instincts of birds. To accompany Hughes’s reveries is to experience a venturing soul whose arrival replicates the fearful exuberance of freedom; her discovery is that without such freedom, we cannot delineate the boundaries of our inner survival maps.

–Tess Gallagher

Sailing by Ravens is a deeply moving portrait of a sailor and her ocean.  It’s a look back at love and loss and the Alaskan fishing life. It’s a history of sailing and navigation, a study of a dissolving marriage, a gorgeous map of the body and desire. It’s an impressive book of forms and an ingeniously crafted whole. Holly Hughes takes on the familiar metaphor of the ocean, then makes it necessary and new. I’m awestruck.
–Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate, author of Plume and Famous

In Sailing by Ravens the language of navigation, horizons, and knots begins not as metaphorical flourish but from a literal, deeply realized seagoing life.  Holly Hughes has found all her compass points in mapping this world with great intelligence, compassion, and meaning.
Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate, author of Fishcamp and Beluga Days

These poems of the sea begin with a school girl’s fascination for “the blue sea holding captive all the land” and end as the seasoned sailor learns that “even the old charts/ can’t navigate the wild shoals of your heart.” Along the way we are shipmates through days of fishing, sailing, loving, and losing as Hughes navigates the lure, lore, and loneliness of a sea that is both natural force and metaphor. I love Sailing by Ravens with its salt of the sea, salt of our deepest lives.
Gary Thompson, author of One Thing After Another