Eva Saulitis to be honored Friday in Homer

first_imgEva Saulitis. (Credit courtesy of Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College)Download AudioThe community of Homer is mourning the death of a beloved writer, scientist and teacher.  Eva Saulitis died January 16th of cancer. Homer Council on the Arts will award Saulitis a lifetime achievement award, posthumously, on Friday. The Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College will hold a memorial reading in the evening.Homer Council on the Arts will make the award at their annual meeting at their office Friday, January 29th. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. The memorial reading starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, with a potluck afterwards.Eva Saulitis’poems capture a snapshot of rural life in Homer where she lived. Her student, Miranda Weiss reads one of her favorites.“This poem is called The Egg Couplets: Only one egg today when I trudged out to throw slop to the hens, scatter ash on the path. It’s February. The sun’s coming back and now when he hears my voice Olaf throws his head back and crows …,” read Weiss.Saulitis was a scientist, a poet, an essayist and an instructor at the local college. She also worked as a professor through the low residency MFA in Creative Writing program at University of Alaska Anchorage. And she helped organize the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference.She’s best known for her book about whales called, Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss in the realm of Vanishing Orcas, now assigned in college classrooms. But she also wrote poetry in books titled, Many Ways to Say It and Prayer in Wind.Becoming Earth book cover. Saulitis’ final book is due out in 2017. (Credit: photo by Erin Hollowell)Saulitis is remembered for her ability to mix artistic and scientific writing and an openness that fostered creativity in her students.“I hadn’t really ever met and you know hadn’t really read much writing by somebody who was both a poet and a scientist – somebody who could write lyrically and also richly scientific and with a real keen eye to natural history,” said Weiss.Weiss says her first class with Saulitis hooked her. Saulitis lit a candle in the middle of the room and then asked the students to tell their own stories:“I imagine that these were stories that people had never written about and likely never event told anybody about – Stories from peoples’ live, the lives of the people in the class. And so she just had this way of inviting that and making that okay and inviting people to write what was important to them,” said  Weiss.Weiss went on to get an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. Saulits had that effect on her students, says Linda Martin. She gave them confidence. Martin also went on to pursue an MFA in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University after classes with Saulitis.“We’re 20 years difference in age. I’m 20 years older than Eva, but I felt like she was so much older than I in poetry. Her enthusiasm for poetry itself is what got me writing poetry for real. And I just published a book in April,” said Martin.Martin says Saulitis’enthusiasm was infectious. Students could feel her authenticity, that she was completely present with them and that she really cared.“She would praise and cajole and really get into each of her students’ work. It was wonderful to see. Also I just loved looking at Eva and listening to her because she was beautiful and enthusiastic,” said Martin.Erin Hollowell is the Director of 49 Writers, a statewide writers organization, and has been Adjunct Instructor at the Kachemak Bay Campus. Hollowell began teaching alongside Saulitis. They often shared students, and Hollowell noticed something about those students.“It was always lovely because they came to me completely confident in their work. That’s what she gave them, was a real inherent confidence that their story mattered as well,” said Hollowell.Saulitis was very prolific, publishing four books in the past five years. Despite having cancer, she even blogged from her hospital bed in Seattle.“She showed us a really honorable way to do something that we don’t talk about in our communities very that much. We don’t talk about death. And she was like, I’m gonna talk about it,” said Hollowell.Saulitis’ final book – Becoming Earth, is set to come out in 2017. It starts with reflections on her recurrence of cancer and moves through the process of her anger dealing with it then ends with meditations on death. Miranda Weiss says she remembers her teacher best through that poem about her simple walk to the chicken coop and back.“Walking back, the dog waited for me. The egg was warm in my pocket. My house was there. My house was there, and I was there and the egg for my family. Death was nowhere, foraging and in the cottonwood trees. Now I kneel in front of the stove raking the ashes for a few live coals to start the evening fire. I just walked to the chicken coop and back. That was all. I placed and egg in the tray that marks a string of days, laid out like that. A life lived out egg by egg. It was pretty good,” said Weiss.Pretty good, say friends and colleagues is an understatement. And they’ll be there Friday evening to celebrate just how well Saulitis lived and died.last_img read more