Now I Lay Me Down to Fight: A Poet Writes Her Way Through Cancer, By Katy Bowser Hutson

Now I Lay Me Down to Fight

A Poet Writes Her Way Through Cancer

by Katy Bowser Hutson
Illustrated by Jodi Hays
Foreword by Tish Harrison Warren

Now I Lay Me Down to Fight
  • Length: 96 pages
  • Dimensions: 5 × 7 in
  • Published: November 14, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0799
  • ISBN: 9781514007990

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In stirring verse and essays, Katy Bowser Hutson chronicles her battle with breast cancer and the complications of faith amid such a fight. Accentuated by the art of Jodi Hays, Katy's words lead us through the realization of cancer, the experience of chemotherapy and a mastectomy, relentless rounds of radiation, the uncertainty of ongoing treatment, and what comes after survival. She writes in resistance to sickness, of wrestling toward beauty:

Cancer is an overgrowth, a kudzu:

Tangling and strangling legitimate life.
Chemo is a killing, a burning out:
Burning down to ashy carbon, indiscriminately
But cancer, did you know that I am a poet?

Through it all, she shows what it means to struggle in a battered body and to pray to a God who is near to the broken. Join her in this consideration of mortality and witness her persisting trust in God's unseen ways.

"The poems in Now I Lay Me Down to Fight are luminous, honest, heartbreaking, and at moments even funny. They are at once defiant yet surrendered, buoyant yet profound, faithful yet never trite. To read them is to encounter a beautiful and brave soul who invites us into her vulnerability, illness, and mortality through images and stories as human as they are hopeful. I cried reading these verses—no surprise given the subject and my love for the poet. What did surprise me was how much I smiled as well. Katy Hutson has descended into the darkness of cancer and there wrought beauty, goodness, wisdom, and even abundance."

Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest and author of Prayer in the Night, from the foreword

"What do you do if you wake up one day to find your breasts are insanely on fire with a vicious invader who plans to kill you unless you take the chemo journey without so much as a promise of survival? Because you are young, a wife and a mother with hopes to live for other stories, you have no choice. You take the journey. And if you are a poet, you 'walk this poisonous way' hoping, praying, negotiating, and writing all the while. In this collection Katy moves through the halls of medicine and the corridors of pain to find she is only a 'tiny speck of glory, barely sparking,' but one carried in the arms of Jesus. Out of the crucible of cancer comes this rare collection of poems sure to be a comfort to any who have cussed, fought, and cried their way through an unwanted diagnosis or any of the heartaches and griefs common to humankind."

Margie Haack, author of The Exact Place and codirector of Ransom Fellowship

"Here is a writer who is as brilliant as she is brave; she brings us face-to-face with aches and joys that are so potent, they grip our hearts and refuse to let us run away from them. It is shocking how deeply personal yet widely relatable this body of work is. All in all, this is a very necessary book."

Moyosola Olowokure, artist and performance poet

"Writing from within the very heart of pain, exhaustion, and a search for meaning, Katy Bowser Hutson lays open her questioning heart in a way that a reader will want to join her in negotiating with God for survival and relief. This is profitable reading for those of us whose want to do business with the God of salvation and healing."

Luci Shaw, poet and author of The Generosity

"In this extraordinary book of poems, Katy Bowser Hutson names, knows, and faces the fear of cancer and all it contrives to take away. On each page, she steps through the unknowing, now resting, now fighting, always finding in language not just the death and darkness that follow from the fall, but also the grace that rises each day to meet it. 'I know the fall, and the overcome,' she writes. 'Running down fear with beauty,' she gives us a schooling in both. This book is a scarred gift, an unsentimental balm for the wounded, an illumination for us all."

Abram Van Engen, chair of the English department at Washington University and cohost of the Poetry for All podcast

"Katy Bowser Hutson's poems and short essays are bodily and frank. Also, they are infused with light and hope that never feels sentimental. Into the valley of the shadow of death Katy speaks words of life. She is a gift, and these poems are a gift."

Jonathan Rogers, host of The Habit Podcast and The Habit Membership for Writers

"Both beautiful and harrowing, Katy Bowser Hutson's book takes readers on a journey into 'the depths.' In Hutson's case, they're the hellish depths of cancer, where senseless things are made sense of through the language of poetry—even if only partially—in order to discover a God who has not abandoned her to the depths but rather, in love, abided with her in them. This book is a gift to all who suffer and to those who keep watch with the sufferers."

W. David O. Taylor, associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Open and Unafraid

"Katy's poetic reflections are unflinchingly honest—and stubborn in hope too. Whether you've received a cancer diagnosis or love someone who has, this book will help you feel less alone. These gentle invitations are full of quiet strength and will leave you with the profound truth that God's tender comfort is near, even in the most heart-wrenching moments of being human."

Kayla Craig, author of Every Season Sacred and To Light Their Way

"Hutson weaves a luminous and lyrical mix of poetry and prose documenting her fight with breast cancer. . . . This gemlike offering captures illness in all its pain and complexity."

Publishers Weekly, July 2023


Foreword by Tish Harrison Warren
Preface: The Week Before Cancer
1. Beginning
2. Chemotheraphy
3. Mastectomy
4. Radiation
5. The Finish Line Moved
6. After
7. How should I end this book, when we all have different endings?


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Katy Bowser Hutson

Katy Bowser Hutson is a forming member of the children's band Rain for Roots. She is the coauthor with Tish Harrison Warren and Flo Paris Oakes of Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, and a contributing author to It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God and Wild Things and Castles in the Sky. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Kenny, and their two children.