March 26, 2019

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Anya Krugovoy Silver, Poetic Voice on Mortality, Dies at 49

Anya Krugovoy Silver, Poetic Voice on Mortality, Dies at 49
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Anya Krugovoy Silver, the poet who, after receiving a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer in 2004, wrote lyrical verse that gave readers an exquisite, intimate and sometimes angry account of her illness, died on Monday in Macon, Ga. She was 49.

Andrew Silver, her husband, confirmed the death.

Ms. Silver was pregnant and teaching English literature at Mercer University in Macon when she learned that she had inflammatory breast cancer, a particularly rare and aggressive kind. She gave birth to her only child, Noah; had a mastectomy; and discovered the intensity with which cancer inspired her poetry.

In often sensual poems, she wrote with unswerving candor about living under the threat of imminent death, her love for her son and husband, and the parallel world of advanced cancer, where “healthy people fear us.” In “Stage IV,” she wrote:

Faces turn away from me — I’m taboo, now —

the boat I’m set inside is crowded

with others like myself —

they come from their own cities.

Cautiously, we take each other’s hands

and trade stories.

The poems Ms. Silver wrote before her illness, published in literary journals like The Iowa Review and Image magazine, explored religion, love, womanhood, spirituality, the body and other subjects. Those concerns were magnified by her cancer, which became her “flood subject,” as Emily Dickinson referred to immortality.

“My poetry got better,” she said in an interview with Macon magazine in 2010. “Nothing focuses your mind and helps you see clearly what’s important quite like cancer. It made me want to explore, even more, the beauty and divinity of the ordinary world.”

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