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Heavenly Bodies

Heavenly Bodies

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Cynthia Huntington


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
86 pages, 6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

National Book Award Finalist 2012

In this blistering collection of lyric poems, Cynthia Huntington gives an intimate view of the sexual revolution and rebellion in a time before the rise of feminism. Heavenly Bodies is a testament to the duality of sex, the twin seductiveness and horror of drug addiction, and the social, political, and personal dramas of America in the 1960s.

From the sweetness of purloined blackberries to the bitter taste of pills, the ginger perfume of the Hawaiian Islands to the scream of the winter wind, Huntington’s fearless and candid poems offer a feast for the senses that is at once mystical and earthy, cynical and surreal. Echoing throughout are some of the most famous—and infamous—voices of the times: Joan Baez and Charles Manson, Frank Zappa and Betty Friedan. Jinns and aliens beckon while cities burn and revolutionaries thunder for change. At the center is the semiautobiographical Suzy Creamcheese, sensual and rebellious, both almighty and powerless in her sexuality. 

Achingly tender yet brutally honest, Heavenly Bodies is an unflinching reflection on the most personal of physical and emotional journeys.

Univeristy Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools 2013 edition

Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, 2012


Cynthia Huntington is the author of four books of poetry, including The Radiant  (winner of the Levis Prize), The Fish-Wife, and We Have Gone to the Beach, as well as a prose memoir, The Salt House. A former New Hampshire State Poet Laureate, she is professor of English at Dartmouth College where she serves as senior faculty in creative writing. She served as Chair of the Poetry Jury for the Pulitzer Prizes in Poetry for 2006.


"Huntington...does not go easy on the reader. Again and again she comes back to the images of the drug-addled, the lost, the repressed, or the rebel, finding subtle new ways to reconfigure their place in a cold, distant society that seems content to view them as lesser than what they are...Her 'heavenly bodies' are those women who are strong when others might find them to be weak, 'sinners' whose 'sin' is merely the rejection of that which degrades them."—Larry Nolen, OF Blog

"Cynthia Huntington’s Heavenly Bodies is a fearless and exacting exploration of illness, addiction, abuse, and the waning of American idealism. These poems are unblinking in the face of dark subject matter, and surprising in their capacity for hope, for grace. Huntington’s speakers are as vast and compassionate—as empathetic and multitudinous—as Whitman’s, and they sing of the beauty and seductive brutality of survival in a world perpetually 'alight with new dangers.'”—Judges Citation, National Book Foundation 

"Huntington, who can tune a lyric any way she likes, has written exquisite poems, some of which turn tragedy into transcendence...But in this book, we suspect that Huntington is tired of rapture and redemption, and that her real subject is disobedience. Her poems in Heavenly Bodies resist transcendent turns just to please the reader, offering instead the body of the poem as it is, without lipstick or peignoir."—Julia Shipley, Seven Days

“This is a poetry of woundedness and defiance. Heavenly Bodies has a stark integrity in its refusals to beguile or comfort; no one could call it uplifting. Yet there is something bracing, even encouraging, in the hungry survival of this sister of Sylvia Plath and in her self-insistence: I do not give up my strangeness for anyone.”—Mark Halliday

“Cynthia Huntington’s Heavenly Bodies is the most searing and frightening book of poetry I have read in years. The poems arise from pain and illness, from the body’s rebellions and betrayals, and yet they are also curiously exhilarating, even redemptive: perhaps because they are utterly free of self-pity, and find the means—through the sustained ferocity and invention of their language—to transform suffering into a vision so bold it must be called prophetic. Heavenly Bodies is a remarkable collection, on every level."—David Wojahn, author of World Tree