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Author Biography


Articles & Reviews

The Sauna Is Full of Maids

poems by Cheryl J. Fish

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Cheryl J. Fish first visited Finland as a Fulbright professor in 2007. Since then she has returned many times to research protest and resistance to mining and extraction in Arctic Fennoscandia in the works of Sami filmmakers, photographers, and artists. However, the landscapes and experiences of the country's saunas, lakes, villages, homes, streets, and parks evoked rich stories and poetry. This unique collection of poems, The Sauna Is Full of Maids, is a reflection on how present-day Finnish life intertwines with folklore and mythology—expressed in the Kalevala, a work of epic poetry compiled from long-lived ballads, songs, and incantations—and advancing modern developments. Accompanied by many of the poet's own photographs, this collection has the kind of rich cultural detail that warms and satisfies the reader with insight and appreciation.

POETRY / General
TRAVEL / Europe / Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, Sweden)

ISBN: 978-1-951651-74-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2021936154

Released 6-20-2021

72 pages


Author Biography

Cheryl J. Fish is a poet, fiction writer, and environmental justice scholar. She is the author of CRATER & TOWER, poems that examine the eruption of the Mount St. Helens volcano through the lens of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. She is the author of the chapbooks Make It Funny, Make it Last (#171, Belladonna) and My City Flies By. Her poems have appeared in Poetics-for-the-More-than-Human World, New American Writing, Hanging Loose, and elsewhere. Her short stories have been published in Iron Horse Literary Review, CheapPopLit, Spank the Carp, and Liars League NYC. Her debut novel, OFF THE YOGA MAT, is forthcoming from Livingston Press in 2022. Fish has written about extraction and mining in Sami areas of Fennoscandia, and Sami responses through activist film, photography, and ecomedia in publications such as Critical Norths: Space Nature, Theory; Nordic Narratives of Nature and Environment; and The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema. Fish is the author of Black and White Women’s Travel Narratives and co-editor with Farah J. Griffin, of A Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African American Travel Writing. She has been Fulbright professor in Finland and is currently professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and docent lecturer in the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki.



“Steeped in the rich images of the Finnish north, Cheryl J. Fish’s latest collection of poetry is a meditation on how Finnish life and experiences entangle with mythic pasts and global modernities. Fish’s verse brilliantly captures the complex juxtapositions that characterize life in Finland today—from steaming saunas to nuclear reactors, from the Kalevala to Tom of Finland exhibitions, from Sámi lávvus to boozy Helsinki karaoke pubs. In her poetry, the mythologic remains with us, blooming in renewal in the everyday acts of diverse people: gay Helsinki; an immigrant from Afghanistan in a tiny northern village; a father rowing a boat with his dreadlocked son. The collection has a breath and cadence to it like a naked run over snow-covered ground, from a hot sauna to the cold sea.”
Tim Frandy, editor and translator of Inari Sámi Folklore: Stories from Aanaar

The Sauna Is Full of Maids, set amid Arctic Fennoscandia, Helsinki, and Tampere, celebrates a world threatened by ‘nations’ that ‘circle the water, on alert / To take more’—an ancient world of sauna culture, reindeer herding, lingonberries, and midnight sun, where ‘We pour water on the rocks, over nakedness. Leave imperfection and judgment.’ The piercing beauty of the photographs, the warmth and rich cultural detail of her poems make this a collection to treasure.”
Ann Fisher-Wirth, author of The Bones of Winter Birds and coeditor, The Ecopoetry Anthology

“Based on her experience of Finland, Cheryl J. Fish’s The Sauna is Full of Maids illustrates a ‘longing for eternal things.’ These timeless essentials include friendship and the naked democracy of the sauna. What grievances can you hold when the only thing you are wearing is a pair of paper shoes? In a land of long days and refreshing cold, ‘The city unfolds from the present of presence, melding steam from green.’ Not the stress of American traffic but crunchy muikku fish and a moment so warm ‘heat builds in our teeth.’ Including photos, the experience of the book is that of healing: ‘In the hotel sauna with Jane in Helsinki, we relax our previous-ness.”’
Paul Hoover, author of O, and Green: New and Selected Poems, and editor of the literary magazine New American Writing

Articles and Reviews

“If you are an aficionado of Finland and saunas, this book is for you.”
Suzanne Ondrus, “A review of The Sauna is Full of Maids by Cheryl J. Fish,” Compulsive Reader, November 4, 2021

Eero Kilpi, “Cheryl J. Fish, PH.D.: The Sauna Is Full of Maids, The North American Sauna Society,  August 23, 2021

Author Profile: Spank the Carp,” Spank the Carp

“Snapshot: Cheryl J. Fish (Finland, 2006/07),” Fulbrighter, June 22, 2021

“An adventure to Finland told with poems, photographs, and lines from the Kalevala, Finland’s origin story/epic/saga.”
Susan Kay Anderson, “Finland Is Full Of Saunas, Berries, Lakes, and Interesting People,” June 3, 2021


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