Local

Macon poet who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant dies

Anya Silver
Anya Silver

Anya Silver did not shy away from talking about death.

Death enraged her, moved her to compassion and incited her to worry for her son, all of which she wrote about in her poetry published in four books and dozens of journals.

As a poet, Silver thought it was her job to see that her reader confront death as she had.

“If my truth is uncomfortable for people then that isn’t really my problem,” she told GPB’s Celeste Headlee in a January 2018 interview. “My job is to bring my truth to the world, and my truth isn’t always pretty.”

Silver, of Macon, passed away this week from inflammatory breast cancer.

Silver received her cancer diagnosis in 2004 while pregnant. That she would live the rest of her life with cancer while raising a son was something that she struggled with, a struggle reflected in her poem, “Psalm 137 For Noah,” from her book, “Second Bloom.”

“My son, my roe deer, my rock rent stream, my honeysuckle, my salt, my golden spear. Forgive me your birth in this strange land. I wanted your infant caresses, your fists clasped around my neck. I craved you though you were born in the wake of my illness, my dim prognosis.”

Despite those misgivings, Silver said she felt no guilt about becoming a mother.

“I decided that the joy of life and the beauty and connection of life were more important than the chance of suffering,” she told Headlee.

A lifelong Christian, Silver said she was not afraid to ask the same tough questions of God that life asked of her, something she gave voice to in another poem in “Second Bloom,” inspired by the death of a friend, another mother with young children.

“Merciful one, begotten of woman. Understand how difficult it is to trust that you are kind.”

For Silver, those words were not inspired by contempt for God or even spite but instead by an earnest but awed question: Why?

“I don’t know why a loving God would allow a young woman with children to die a horrible death,” she said. “And I was thinking, ‘What’s the proof that God is good in the world? What’s the proof that God loves us when we see people around us suffering?’ And I didn’t really have an answer for that. So I was just telling God, well, sometimes I don’t trust you.”

Still, Silver said her faith was a bedrock of her life.

“In general the idea that there is a God to whom I can speak, whether it’s in unhappiness or anger, is something that sustains me,” she said.

In truth, Silver said the turmoil brought on by the inscrutability of God or by the imminence of death was as integral to her enjoyment of life as were moments of joy.

“I think all of life is woven together and separating the strands is impossible, so I’m comfortable talking about those things and still being a happy person,” she said.

Silver was named Georgia Author of the Year for Poetry in 2015 and was named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. She is survived by her husband, Andrew Silver, and her son.

  Comments