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Tracy Ryan, Ex Opere Operato

Where the head rolled lopped from
The body, a cold world sprang up.

“Ex opere operato”: by the works performed – of sacraments whose power is not dependent the merit of on the one working them...

This collection of thematically-linked poems starts from the “Holywell” Hopkins wrote about – strange site in Wales commemorating a female saint supposed to have been restored to life after decapitation. Legend says the sacred spring arose where her head hit the ground.

From Holywell to Walsingham, the poems tussle with some of the legacies of Catholic Christianity, investigating pilgrimage, shrine and reliquary, the fraught connections between religious ideology and the body, especially with regard to mortality.

Written in Cambridge, UK, during a Judith E. Wilson Junior Visiting Fellowship, this work also commemorates the poet John Forbes, who died not long before it was begun.

Tracy Ryan was born in Western Australia but has also lived in Britain and the United States. As well as many volumes of poetry, she has published three novels. She has a particular interest in language-learning and translation.

Rare Object Number 15.
8 pages. Published 2000.
Cover image by Kay Orchison.

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