Saint Christina the Astonishing was born into a poor Belgian family in 1150. She ‘died’ aged 22 but at her requiem she rose from her coffin and flew away like a bird, wanting to escape the smell of sinful humanity.
This was the first of many mad, disobedient exploits in her long and remarkable life. Jane Draycott and Lesley Saunders retell – through their own poems as well as brief extracts from medieval religious writers – Christina’s story as a woman’s search for selfhood. The book includes artworks from Peter Hay, which he created for the original edition in direct response to the poetry.
First published in 1998 and long out of print, this new edition makes Jane Draycott and Lesley Saunders’ sensual and exhilarating poetic collaboration available once more.
A Two Rivers Press illustrated classic.
‘Ascetic and excessive, exasperating, sometimes absurd, the life of the little-known St Christina provokes fantasies and questions. Was she a wonder worker? Or an anorexic, fuelled by hatred of the flesh? Or a powerful woman whose legendary flights set her free from her time and her place? Rather than offering pieties or diagnoses, Lesley Saunders and Jane Draycott, invite us to a feast of soul food. Their two distinctive voices meet the voices of the Middle Ages in an extraordinary blend of the sacred and the profane, the rapt and the irreverent, playful, sensual and deeply felt.’ – Philip Gross
‘Poetry as exciting as this is rare: fusing an earthy sensuality with the spiritual, it lets us hear Christina’s voice ringing clearly from the rafters.’ – Robyn Bolam
‘Christina the Astonishing is strange, wild, exhilarating: as in a piece of medieval polyphony, the authors mingle their voices, making connections between history and fantasy, between inner life and outer witness. I was intrigued, entertained, and – yes – astonished.’ – Marina Warner
Jane Draycott and Lesley Saunders. Illustrated by Peter Hay. Paperback, 210 x 135 mm, 104 pages, June 2022.
About the authors:
Lesley Saunders is the author of several poetry collections, most recently This Thing of Blood & Love (Two Rivers Press 2022) and, with artist Rebecca Swainston, Days of Wonder (Hippocrates Press 2021), a document of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her English translations – including the poem that won the 2016 Stephen Spender award – of renowned Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta were published as Point of Honour (Two Rivers Press 2019). Lesley works on collaborative projects with visual artists, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers as well as other poets. Otherwise, she is a visiting professor at UCL Institute of Education, London, and an honorary research fellow at Oxford University Department of Education.
Jane Draycott’s collections include, from Two Rivers Press, Tideway (2002, reissued 2022), poems about the lives of the watermen and women working on the London Thames, and Storms Under the Skin (2017) translations from the poems of artist-writer Henri Michaux, as well as five collections from Carcanet Press, including The Occupant (2016, Poetry Book Society Recommendation), Over (2009, T S Eliot Prize shortlist) and her prize-winning translation of the 14th-century dream-elegy Pearl. She teaches on postgraduate writing programs at the universities of Oxford and Lancaster and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.