Anya Krugovoy Silver, poet, dies at age 49

“Making meaning out of suffering and loss,” Silver wrote, is “one of poetry’s most fundamental aims.”
August 23, 2018
Anya Krugovoy Silver
Anya Krugovoy Silver

Anya Krugovoy Silver, whose searing poems about family, faith, and cancer appeared in the Christian Century, among other publications, died August 6 in Macon, Georgia. She was 49.

A 2018 Guggen­heim Fellow for Poetry, she taught English literature at Mercer Uni­versity. Among the four books of poetry she published are The Ninety-Third Name of God (2010) and Second Bloom (2017).

Her poems related to cancer and its treatment—the way it ravages a body, the relief that a Popsicle can bring—are intertwined with deep, honest questioning of God.

“Making meaning out of suffering and loss,” Silver wrote in a review for the Century, is “one of poetry’s most fundamental aims.”

In a poem published two years after her diagnosis with inflammatory breast cancer in 2004, “After the Biopsy,” she wrote:

The pathology report an icon; the tissue
staining the slide, God’s kaleidoscope.
And those cells, obeying their DNA,
cosmic dust as they whirl and split.

And yet she could not see cancer as a gift. The poem continues, addressing Mary, “This same God / took your son away. Help me disobey.”

She gave birth to a son amid her illness, and addressed him in one of her best-known poems, “Psalm 137 for Noah”: “I wanted your infant kisses, your fists clasped / round my neck. . . . I willed you this woe, this world. / You inherited exile for my sake.”