As an up-front disclaimer I will state that Holly Iglesias is a long term friend with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook. It was only then that I learned of her writing. The Holly Iglesias I knew twenty-some years ago was an aspiring and very gifted actress whom I directed in Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit and in a play by A.R. Gurney.

Then the years rolled by and it was just today that Hands-On Saints, a collection of poems by Holly Iglesias that I ordered from Amazon.com reached my mailbox. It could be misleading to describe this book of poetry as an easy read, but the brevity of this collection and the pungent clarity of Holly’s writing made the reading of Hands-On Saints very easy and very pleasurable.

The writing evidences a formidable intellect and a wealth of historical and literary references at the author’s command. Figures from Greek mythology stumble onto the pages of this book and keep at times uneasy company with the names of Catholic saints that one would find on the flip side of one of those old wall calendars that bore one page for each day of the year. On those pages one would find the names of saints whose birth or martyrdom we mortals were to either celebrate or more likely soberly observe.

However I’m almost certain that Saint Teeter and Saint Bob of Miami are made up names, evidencing the author’s very special brand of humor.

It takes one lapsed Catholic to quickly spot another Catholic, lapsed or practicing. I will make no assumptions, though on the basis of what I read on the surface of this muscular writing and between its lines I perceive the soul of a formidable writer grappling with her faith and struggling to reconcile her inner world with the outside one.

There is in this writing again and again the pull and push of flesh versus soul, no better illustrated than in luxuriant alliterations like “Post-millennial traffic thick as flies before the plagues of pus and profit plough through.” Pitted against the bluntness of such language there are moments of ecstatic spirituality: “We tumble through space on a path of light – released – pitched like mercy into a bliss of constellation.”

This is the first of three books of poetry I sent for, all three by Holly Iglesias. Can’t wait to read the other two.

Hands on Saints is published by Quale Press (www.quale.com)

Rafael de Acha