The Book of Hulga, which is a speculation on the life of Flannery O’Connor using one of her most memorable characters, Hulga from “Good Country People,” was selected by Denise Duhamel for the 2015 Felix Pollak Prize and has just been released by the University of Wisconsin Press.
“To read these poems is to inhabit the body of a penitent climbing, on hands and knees, the long stone steps toward God. The book’s three crowns of finely interwoven sonnets leave no doubt that Reese is an equal to Donne or Hopkins.”—Nick Lantz, author of We Don’t Know We Don’t Know
“Like the peacock lifting that magnificent tail into an arch, Rita Mae Reese’s poems of affliction and epiphany shiver and extend a structure so stunning, so moving, it’s nearly impossible to respond justly in language. Flannery O’Connor would have kept The Book of Hulga on her bedside table.”—Amy Newman, author of Dear Editor
“A mesmerizing imagination at work. The language is pared but rich, philosophical and earthy. These poems are fiercely individual, but dovetail into a narrative bright with revelations and wonder. The Book of Hulga is a triumph.”—Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning
The Book of Hulga speculates—with humor, tenderness, and a brutal precision—on a character that Flannery O’Connor envisioned but did not live long enough to write: “an angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch grinding her teeth.” These striking poems look to the same sources that O’Connor sought out, from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Edgar Allan Poe to Simone Weil. Original illustrations by Julie Franki further illuminate Reese’s imaginative verse biography of a modern-day hillbilly saint.