How does one participate (read and write) from within the membranous precinct between our multiple bodies, from within the larger rhizomic field of resonances, where much is sounding and also unsounded? By employing various “divinatory generators” (instructions, methods, trances), the essays in Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics genuflect to practices that celebrate engagement with uncertainty while cultivating strategies through which one might collaborate with both rupture and rapture.




Written over the course of sixteen years, Selah Saterstrom’s Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics is a celebration of what C.D. Wright called storytelling’s capability to “translate the world back into tongues.” Juxtaposing lyric essays and fragments with meditations on process, Saterstrom alchemizes minerals, prayers, screenplays, slaughterhouses, spiders, and sexual encounters. The result is an amulet disguised as a book that’s at once generous, rhizomatic, haunted, formally rangy, musical, and assured.

— Claire Donato

In this remarkable book Selah Saterstrom, heir to a long line of divinatory women, invites us to the crossroads between writing and divination, or, reading. Whether she reads the cards, the rosary, a film, or a painting, her divinatory process is always a deep listening, through which she opens herself to “risk and disorientation.” The writing that results runs fluidly, freely, fearlessly through losses, terrors, mysteries, and passions. Saterstrom guides us, her readers, into her practices in order to unveil, and make available to us, writing as a celebratory and prayerful act, as ecstatic song. To read this book is to understand anew the exuberant possibilities of the word.

— Julie Carr

I don’t know if poetry is prayer, but I do know that Selah Saterstrom has offered a divine answer to the deadening thrum of heteropatriarchal capitalistic poetry in Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics. These essays span the range of rhetorical modes while illuminating a regular practice of reaching toward (indeed celebrating, embodying) mystery. A line from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple kept repeating as I read this book: “They come to church to share God, not find God.” I never thought I’d say I want to go to church with someone, but I think I’ve just gone with Saterstrom and dammit all, it just might be saving me.

— TC Tolbert


Selah Saterstrom is the author of the novels SlabThe Meat and Spirit Plan, and The Pink Institution. With the poet HR Hegnauer, she curates Madame Harriette Presents, an occasional performance series. She teaches and lectures across the United States, and is the director of Creative Writing at the University of Denver.

Essay Press is pleased to announce the two winners of the 2016 Essay Press Open Book Contest judged by Carla Harryman: Litany for the Long Moment by Mary-Kim Arnold and Of Sphere by Karla Kelsey, which will be published in Fall 2017.