Matthew Wickman

“Imagining unto Death: Anya Krugovoy Silver’s Prayers to Saint Agnostica”

Anya Krugovoy Silver’s gut-punching poetry recasts how we usually imagine mystical experience. Saint Agnostica, her final, award-winning book of poems, was published posthumously some three years after her 2018 death. Composed in light of her imminent capitulation to terminal cancer, the volume renders imagination explicit in its exercise of faith. But faith here does not concern the poet’s understanding of divine existence as much as of her own as she struggles to reconcile herself to the eroding dimensions of her life. This life – rendered terrifyingly mortal and set in painful contrast from the health she once knew – “is” only to the extent that it knows itself to be expiring. “I am dying, therefore I am,” these poems convey. To see and feel with them is thus to see and feel less: indeed, that dwindling is what it means to “be” at all. The poet’s leap of faith, which is also a leap of imagination, involves living not in the hereafter but in a condition that is ever-new, ever-expiring in the here-and-now.

Silver is a bard for a spiritual age of crisis – of faith, of the West, of planetary wellbeing. More specifically, she is an oracle for the imagination as a cognitive feature designed to sustain vitality amid a general state of decline. In refusing distraction and false consolation, and in taking a full view of her advancing end, Silver’s faith deepens the richness of life even amid the sweeping changes overtaking it.