Sister Nun



THE BOOK: Sister Nun

PUBLISHED IN: April 2016

THE AUTHOR: Shanti Weiland

THE EDITOR: Sue Brannan Walker

THE PUBLISHER: Negative Capability Press

SUMMARY: Follow Sister Nun as she escapes over the wall of her convent (even though she has, in no way, been held captive) and read as she explores her identity, sexuality, and the path to enlightenment by wrestling alligators, vacationing in hell, and traveling through time and space during her 215-year lifespan.

Image result for Shanti WeilandTHE BACK STORY:  In 2010, I was hanging out in a friend’s pool, on what was probably the last reasonable pool-day-weather, and lamenting that I felt stuck in my writing. She recommended that I write some poems from a distinct character’s perspective. I didn’t think that I would write an entire book about Sister Nun, but I did write four poems from her perspective that autumn, all of which are now included in the book.

I created the Sister Nun character with isolation in mind. It is Sister Nun’s loneliness that pushes her to live her post-convent life so expansively. Anything is better to her than feeling “safe” in an ill-fitting cage. Even a life of sequestered spiritual development cannot move Sister Nun. She feels an urgency to strike out, with both clumsiness and grace, to find herself.

After I witnessed the potential for connection, and for alienation, in the grief that followed the Tuscaloosa tornado, in 2011, I decided to write a whole book from Sister Nun’s viewpoint.

WHY THIS TITLE: Although Sister Nun is not religious, she joins a Buddhist convent in response to a broken heart. She quickly leaves the convent in order to find herself “but/keeps the name ‘Sister,’ as the/divorced do.” I titled the book Sister Nun because her story moves forward when she leaves her past behind; however, it is when she accepts both her past and present that she actually evolves.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: If you like coming of age stories and conversational poetry mixed with surrealism, you will enjoy Sister Nun’s adventures.


“Weiland’s book is polished, unusual, and lovely, but it is even more than that. I don’t remember when I read a book of poetry that I couldn’t put down. Sister Nun is an unforgettable character – and this book that bears such a strong character’s name reminds me of Jane Eyre, Emma, Anna Karenina, and Lolita deserves to be in such elite company.” — Amy King, Author of The Missing Museum and I Want to Make You Safe; winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Shanti Weiland’s first book, Sister Nun was the 2015 winner of the Negative Capability Press Book Competition, judged by Amy King. Her second book, Cracked Planet, is forthcoming from Negative Capability Press in summer 2018. She is currently writing a book of poems about Star Trek: The Next Generation; authors the blog, The Poets That You Meet; and hosts the web corner, Online Enlightenment. You can find her at

Weiland received her BA in English from the University of California, Davis and later moved to the desert, pursuing a Creative Writing MA at Northern Arizona University. She then traveled to the humid and friendly south, where she earned a PhD in Poetry from the University of Southern Mississippi. She currently teaches writing and literature at The University of Alabama and lives in Birmingham with her wife and pets.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: If you are interested in learning more about my writing process and thinking behind some of my poems, check out my blog, The Poets That You Meet, which features accessible poetry discussions and writing prompts.



Virginity is a fragile

canoe. Metaphors are

fragile, too, of course.

Sister knows this but

can’t help thinking of

powdered white cleavage

and unattractive doilies.

The absence of color and

all the colors at once. The

lotus, pure and floating on a

muddy pond. But what about

cow tipping, the irresistible

urge to knock down the

innocent? Children dressed

to match the night and in love

with love, snake through the

gold grass and up to that

old girl, mother to a dozen

calves in her lifetime, and

remembers them only

by their markings.

The hush of midnight and silence

of those trying to keep silent.

She brushes her tail against

her own leg, feels the breeze on

her hooves as she drifts from

one pattern to another, brown

with white spots…black and

brown swirls…white and

grey…white and grey.

The half moon takes root and

she dreams of soft

mooing and warm milk.

Silver cars on a distant

highway. The way

things used to be.

Click here for more information and audio reading:


When things go

well, Sister wants

to live forever like

a superhero with a

band of immortals

who crawl all over

buildings helping

people out.

When the world is

over, they fire

marshmallows in a

red cave and remember

old loves who

died again and again

throughout the centuries.

Their own beautiful,

permanent youth, changed

a hundred times over,

glittering pink some days,

opaque and withholding on

others. Wings at times,

that which separates them

from the larger pack. Lean

muscle, recognizable to

those who study

immortality or the history

of friendship.

Other times, agony’s familiar

noose, a corrective sinner’s

flog, Sister longs

to change back to

energy. Watch the

story through the eyes of

everyone else. Blissfully

detached, and a gentle voice,

asking, Do you like it


Click here for more information and audio reading:

Sister Nun Faces A Sidewinder

Sister would say that she had lived

a lonely life, if pressed now in

this chain motel parking lot.

Scales as bright as her own

bald head. The cacti, fuzzy and

soft from a distance, wave

at the cars, taking them

for suns.

If she said she was only alone

when she asked to be, that, too,

would be true, but today she faces

a sidewinder, and she stills

like red rock.

* * *

Here’s a little known fact: Women

were created by accident. As

dinosaurs lay dying, giving up

on their offspring, lightning

struck a stone, and a giant

woman appeared. Her physical sight

was slight at first, and she hopped

around lava and ducked

from Pterodactyls on

gut alone.

She nursed baby Brontos when

their mothers passed. Held their

long necks gently across her

lap. But soon, the comets made them

so sad that they lifted their big, baby

legs into tar pits, and positioned themselves

to the sun.

The woman painted her body with wet

sand and opened her eyes for

the first time as she sank

into the salty Earth, and


* * *

Sister has learned to wait.

And as the snake finally returns to

her cold nest, Sister thinks of the

woman she left this morning, wrapped

in sky, blue sheets, her naked body

heated in the dark room, and with the

look of our first mother, loving and


Click here for more information and audio reading:

LOCAL OUTLETS: Grace Aberdeen Habitat Alchemy, Tuscaloosa, AL


PRICE: $13.95


Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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