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The Caiplie Caves

The Caiplie Caves

Poems

Karen Solie

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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The award-winning poet Karen Solie’s striking new collection of poems blends the story of a seventh-century monk with contemporary themes of economic class, environmentalism, and solitude in an ever-connected world

if one asks for a sign
must one accept what’s given?

The Caiplie Caves, Karen Solie’s fifth collection of poems, explores the eastern coast of Scotland, situated among the fishing villages and coves in the county of Fife. At its center is Ethernan, an Irish missionary to Scotland who, in the seventh century, retreated to the Caiplie Caves to consider a life as a hermit. Here, Solie inhabits the mind of a man torn between establishing a priory on May Island and an existence of solitude, his uncertainty pulling him in seemingly contradictory directions.

Interwoven with the story of Ethernan are poems whose subjects orbit the physical location of the caves: the fall of a coal-fired power station; an “old man, who raises his spirit like a lamp, / collects Stella cans tossed from the raceway”; seabirds “frontloaded with military tech”; the dichotomous nature of the stinging nettle.

With a singular blend of wry and mythic tones, Solie makes the seventh century feel like recent memory and contemporary issues as disjointing as the distant past. These are meditations on the crisis of time and change, on class, power, and belief. Above all, these are ambitious and exhilarating poems from one of today’s most gifted poetic voices.

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Karen Solie

Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw and grew up in southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. She is the author of poetry collections including Short Haul Engine, Pigeon, and The Living Option. Her work has won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Pat Lowther Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Latner Poetry Prize, and the Canada Council for the Arts Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award. Solie has taught in writing programs and at universities across Canada and in Scotland. An associate director for the Banff Centre's Writing Studio program, she lives in Toronto.

image of Karen Solieo
David Seymour

Karen Solie

Learn more about the Author at the Poetry Foundation

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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