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The Rhythm of It — Poetry’s Hidden Dance

by Anita Sullivan

Each year, the Eric Hoffer Award presents the Montaigne Medal to the most thought-provoking books. These are books that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought. The Montaigne Medal is given in honor of the great French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who influenced people such as William Shakespeare, René Descartes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Eric Hoffer. This is an additional distinction beneath the Eric Hoffer Award umbrella. Upon registering for the Eric Hoffer Award, a book is automatically considered for the Montaigne Medal.

We are very proud to announce that Anita Sullivan's The Rhythm of It is a 2021 Finalist for the Montaigne Medal.

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In this brilliant collection of short essays, author Anita Sullivan presents her observations on the topic of rhythm in poetry, pointing out that certain poems not only feed the brain through narrative and ideas but also nourish the body through rhythm. Sullivan is not talking here about rhyme, but rather an extended palette of rhythmic patterns that are latent in normal speech but often show up in poetry when a degree of emotional intensity is applied to the words. Merely being attentive to this possibility can enrich the experience of reading poetry far beyond what might be expected.


ISBN: 978-1-951651-03-9 (print; softcover)
ISBN: 978-1-951651-04-6 (e-book)

LCCN: 2019953829

Released November 2019

118 pages

Author Biography

Born under the sign of Libra, Anita Sullivan cheerfully admits to a life governed by issues of balance and harmony. This likely led to her career as a piano tuner, as well as her love of birds (Libra is an air sign), gardening, music, and fine literature. She spent years trying to decide if she was a piano tuner who wrote poetry or a poet who tuned pianos. She traveled a lot without becoming a nomad; taught without becoming a teacher; danced without becoming a dancer; fell totally in love with the high desert country of the Southwest and promptly moved to the Pacific Northwest rainforest. She has previously published two essay collections, a novel, two poetry chapbooks, and a full-length poetry collection. Her collection of short essays, The Bird That Swallowed the Music Box, was published by Shanti Arts in 2018. She was a founding member of the Portland, Oregon, poetry publishing collective Airlie Press.



“To read Anita Sullivan’s The Rhythm of It is to understand that poetry invokes and depends upon the rhythms of our being, as common to us as our own pulse and breath patterns (when running, sauntering, stepping out, pausing to observe). Thus for Sullivan, reading and composing alike become actions of the whole body beguiled by and engaged within patterns at once ancient and ever available for rediscovery. Animated by an intriguing, humane, and approachable voice, The Rhythm of It fine tunes our sense of how good poems can inhabit us and we them — heart, mind, and soul.”
Lex Runciman, author of One Hour That Morning, winner of the Oregon Book Award, the Kenneth O. Hanson Award, and the Silcox prize.

“With this book, Anita Sullivan, a quiet genius I have long known as a piano tuner and choreographer of ideas, tunes my mind to a new temperament, enriches the way I read poetry, and jolts my own writing of it with new voltage. She shows how poems seem to present meaning but actually kindle rhythm. She reveals the ghost heartbeats inside utterance on the page and in the body. She pulls away the veil from why some poems, filled with admirable qualities, fall flat, while others, seemingly simple, electrify. Sullivan does the neat trick of showing how poetry works while enriching the magic we can experience in lyric text.”
Kim Stafford, author of Wild Honey, Tough Salt, Oregon Poet Laureate

Articles and Reviews

Review by Katie Eberhart, Oregon Poetry Association, March 1, 2020


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