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ISBN: 978-1-62557-023-9
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Savage Flower

Publication Date: July 2021


In Savage Flower, winner of the 2019 St. Lawrence Book Award, Anna B. Sutton explores female oppression and agency in the Bible Belt South. The intertwined landscapes of Tennessee and North Carolina are the backdrop for Sutton’s beautiful, warring marriage of religion, family, the body, sex and reproductive rights, and the inevitable cycle of destruction and rebirth. In the tradition of the confessional poem, Sutton looks to her past in search of redemption, while always keeping an eye on the larger meaning. Timely, affecting, and fearless, there are no easy answers in Sutton’s imperfect world. As she says in the poem Center Hill, “Even the most beautiful things are full / of our blood.”

Anna B. Sutton reads for the Black Lawrence Press Virtual Reading Series



“Even the most beautiful things are full / of our blood,” writes Anna B. Sutton, embodying the hematic anima of her first collection. In Savage Flower, women don’t just choose what they want; they demand that their choices—from an abortion in Antioch, Tennessee to a cessation of antidepressants in order to get pregnant—are conspicuous to all people, not just whispered about among other cisgender women. The book defies the desire-effacing models of womanhood presented by the Catholic Church during the author’s adolescence and instead, like the best of the Greek myths or good rock’n’roll, plays “the possibility // of tragedy against the possibility / of sex.” It would be too easy to say that this book is feminist. It is, of course, and freshly done as it pulls imagery from the U.S. south, but it’s more complicated than ideology, more human (and corporeal) than rhetoric. “The body,” Sutton writes, “is a lie, a tool, a crude measurement / of survival. It sheds what is useless / and in the end, everything is.”
—Emilia Phillips

Make no mistake: the poems in Savage Flower will break you open with their beauty, with their unflinching ability to turn and keep the gaze on the moments of life so painful we try not to look at them: death and abandonment, injury and loss. Through Sutton’s work, we see the world as a continual process of loss and gain, of departure and return, in which “like prayer, waves fall back against the earth.” But these poems break you in a way that heals you, that continuously reminds you that despite its deaths and losses, this world still “[a] thing of beauty that / blossoms even as it withers.”
—Emma Bolden

The first poem in Anna Sutton’s Savage Flower ends, “The sun was once something called a protostar—an embryo born under the weight of a dust cloud’s own collapse. Billions of years later, the barn cat is picking fur from between her toes, and somewhere in the tall grass, a rabbit is missing.”  As the book’s title and these opening lines suggest, this powerful debut collection bears witness to both beauty and violence in the world. Distilled and unaffected and ambitious in scale, the poems express how the body wants—wants to live, wants to love—though every encounter carries in it the possibility of pain. 
—Blas Falconer

About the Author

© Jasper & Fern

Anna B Sutton

Anna B. Sutton's work has appeared in Indiana Review, Third Coast, Copper Nickel, Booth, Los Angeles Review, and other journals. She received her MFA from University of North Carolina Wilmington and a James Merrill fellowship from Vermont Studio Center. She is a co-founder of the Porch Writers' Collective and has worked for numerous literary organizations, including Humanities Tennessee, Lookout Books, Blair Publisher, Gigantic Sequins, One Pause Poetry, Dialogist, and Ecotone. She currently works at UNC School of the Arts and is pursuing her MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at North Carolina State University.

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