Sailing by Ravens

Holly J. Hughes

Sailing by Ravens

Holly J. Hughes

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

100 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Paper $14.95 ISBN: 9781602232259 Published February 2014
E-book $7.00 to $14.95 ISBN: 9781602232266 Published February 2014
Gillnetter, mariner, and naturalist Holly Hughes has experienced first-hand the practical and philosophical consequences of navigating difficult waters. In Sailing by Ravens, she gathers wisdom gained from thirty seasons working off Alaska’s shores, weaving personal experience and her love of the sea with the history and science of navigation. In this exquisite collection of poems, Hughes deftly navigates “the wavering, certain path” of a woman’s heart, finding that sometimes the best directions to follow are those that come from the natural forces in our lives. These meditations offer waypoints for readers on their own journeys.
“These poems of the sea begin with a school girl’s fascination for ‘the blue sea holding captive all the land’ and end as the seasoned sailor learns that ‘even the old charts/ can’t navigate the wild shoals of your heart.’ Along the way we are shipmates through days of fishing, sailing, loving, and losing as Hughes navigates the lure, lore, and loneliness of a sea that is both natural force and metaphor. I love Sailing by Ravens with its salt of the sea, salt of our deepest lives.”
—Gary Thompson, author of One Thing After Another


The Navigational Fix




Desire Lines

Desire is never on the map


So Many Superstitions to Defy

Heading for Town

Body Memory

What She Can’t Say

Correcting for Variation

Correcting for Deviation

What the Sea Takes, Gives Back

Steer for the Light

Because the sea never forgets



What Was Lost

Wind Rose

This World More Properly Resembles a Heart

Mercator Writes His Epitaph

Painting of John Harrison

The Forestaff

The Wounded Dog Theory: My Dog Responds

The Statue of Flavio Gioia

Bravo Ocean

Cow Falling, Again



Here Be Dragons

Navigating the Body

Terra Incognito


Deep Space


Tied, Untied



Horse Latitudes



Existence Doubtful

Melancholia: Rima Dissolutas

She Speaks in Tongues




Dead Reckoning

The Coriolis Effect

She Dreams of Great Circle Sailing

Boxing the Compass

True North

Working on Deck

Eye Splice

Sailing by Ravens

Steering by Monarchs

Reckoning, Again

And the Universe Curved

All the Unseen Forces



Review Quotes
Washington Independent Review of Books
"Hughes uses every aspect of the sea—navigation, map making, sailing – to chart her poetry. Hers is a record of Alaska’s fish industry and the strong hearts that steer it. Yet, the book is about vulnerability at sea—with all the remote sensing which that entails; and, how the work of living its boundaries and their challenges justifies our inner discoveries."
Tess Gallagher, author of Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems
"Hughes’s gift to us is a poet’s interior map taken from her experience as a navigator, plus extensive reading about the sea. According to Rilke, art must bear witness to a great solitude, and Hughes reveals the compass points of a searching heart plunged into a solitude whose terms are nothing less than to agree to being lost, to drift, and, as in the title, to learn to trust the instincts of birds. To accompany Hughes’s reveries is to experience a venturing soul whose arrival replicates the fearful exuberance of freedom; her discovery is that without such freedom, we cannot delineate the boundaries of our inner survival maps."
Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate
"In Sailing by Ravens the language of navigation, horizons, and knots begins not as metaphorical flourish but from a literal, deeply realized seagoing life. Holly Hughes has found all her compass points in mapping this world with great intelligence, compassion, and meaning."
Poetry Northwest
“An immersion into nautical language and life, and an exploration of what it means to live with direction and drift, two opposing energies that tug our human lives.”
The Raven Chronicles
"It’s a rare pleasure to come upon a book so well crafted, so unified in theme, so honest and true to a poet’s heart. Sailing by Ravens is a remarkable voyage. Book passage as soon as you can.”
Daily New-Miner

"Hughes has worked these poems into a cycle that begins and ends on inward looking notes, but that ranges widely in the pages between, exploring navigation and life on the high seas as an essential aspect of the human experience. Collectively, the individual pieces manage to convey both the enormity of the planet and the universe beyond which setting sail opens one up to, while capturing the stiflingly claustrophobic feel of being in a tiny craft alone on the ocean. . . . This is a remarkably well composed, tightly written collection of brief poems that open up worlds."

For more information, or to order this book, please visit
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style

RSS Feed

RSS feed of the latest books from University of Alaska Press. RSS Feed