Seedlip and Sweet Apple takes the reader into the mind of a true visionary: Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the Shaker religion in colonial America.
With astonishingly original poems inspired by extensive historical research, Arra Lynn Ross creates a collection linked thematically through the voice and story of the woman who was believed by her followers to be Christ incarnate. Broadly and inclusively spiritual, this book captures the ineffable experience of ecstatic vision, activating the progression from literal reality to heightened perception. Simultaneously, this journey delves into the manifold issues of gender and religion, public image, and charismatic leadership, as well as the line between cult and commune and the tenuous bond between faith and behavior.
Seedlip and Sweet Apple honors a complex figure startlingly relevant to contemporary life, pointing to a revolutionary way to work at living—and to live in working—that promises simplicity, peace, and joy.
Praise for Seedlip and Sweet Apple
“Situated between glossary and glossolalia, word and vision, the communal act of language and the singularity of inspiration, Seedlip and Sweet Apple reaffirms the tradition of American visionaries, even will reshaping that tradition into an innovative and dynamic lyric. Arra Lynn Ross raises the roof with her convocation of tongues.” —D. A. POWELL
“As remarkable as it is beautiful, Seedlip and Sweet Apple is a book of heft and sway. From the unwavering lips of Mother Ann Lee, the story of one woman’s religious journey comes speaking to us across the multiple distances of geography, history, and gender — distances that are brought together by Arra Lynn Ross’ poetic invention and narrative deftness. In writing through Mother Ann Lee, Ross makes plain the sacrifices and determination that are a part of any creative act. This book not only revives an important religious figure, it reminds us of how close language is to prayer.” —JOSHUA KYRAH
“Radical and transgressive. . . a miraculous text of narrative and speech fragments– from Sappho to Jesus, from Milton to Blake, from ‘broken bits of Mohawk’ and newspaper accounts– to raise up Mother Ann Lee. . . her ecstatic voice, energy, and vision. If, as Yeats promised, ‘soul clap its hands and sing,’ here she is, on the page, in the ear: harmed and holy, brave, alive, and in community, ‘a woman sowing sees at the break of day.'” –HILDA RAZ
Arra Ross invites us into a story that is at once harrowing and spiritually alive. At a moment when religious fervor is so much a force in our own time’s public conversations, the story of Mother Ann Lee allows us to see how such fervor has marked our past, and how its complexities might inform and deepen our views of contemporary spiritual life.” — LESLIE ADRIENNE MILLER