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Dream of Xibalba
a poem by Stephanie Adams-Santos

Winner of The 2021 Orison Poetry Prize, selected by Jericho Brown


Orison Books
paper  /  132 pp.  /  $18.00
ISBN: 978-1-949039-38-2

Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
952-223-8373  /
Publication Date: May 2, 2023




Dream of Xibalba, Stephanie Adams-Santos's incantatory long poem, draws the reader into a dreamworld where the barrier between life and death grows porous, populated by ancestors and spirits. The influence of such poets as Cecilia Vicuña, Federico García Lorca, and Yvan Goll is evident here, yet Adams-Santos's voice and vision are entirely her own. Dream of Xibalba is a unique, epic work of cultural and spiritual significance.




"Dream of Xibalba [...] is an epic poem that tests the boundaries of life and death, reality and the dream world, ancestors and spirits and ghosts."


"Dream of Xibalba maps an uncanny journey into a watery Mayan underworld populated with ancestors and scented by the 'perfume of the underworld.' Written in present tense, the twelve sections of this collection—one for each hour—move as if recounting a ritual. Guatemalan-American poet Stephanie Adams-Santos […] delivers compelling and dramatic world-building."

—Rebecca Morgan Frank, Literary Hub

"Dream of Xibalba is a long and hypnotic meditation on rediscovery. Each page spirals out from the page before in a manner of breathless recognition: 'You open yourself / your mouth your eyes your forehead / with a sharp stone carried from childhood.' This is not a poetry of fearlessness but of the journey one takes in spite of fear. 'This is what you must listen for.'"
Jericho Brown, judge of The 2021 Orison Poetry Prize


"A journey deep into ancestry and identity, the ties of blood and bone, Dream of Xibalba is rife with intricate and ancient symbolism. Adams-Santos deftly leads us on in mythic and transformational meditation on the ways in which we’re formed by both the ghosts of our past and the rich tapestry of our present moment."

—Jessica Hundley


"The poemspace is often a dreamspace, whether in Homer or the Popol Vuh, the dream-visions of medievals, the post-Freudian associations of automatic writing, or even the aspirationalism of liberatory poetries. In all of these, though, the dreamspace is too a deathspace, with an underworld, an afterlife. In Stephanie Adams-Santos's Dream of Xibalba, this wide breadth of dreamspace is acutely a deathspace, enabling a poetry as equally imaginative as material, mythic as personal. Alongside the one world of prosaic light and knowledge, it imagines 'another world of life and death,' 'another blood,' 'another memory nested / in memory.' Past the prosaic, horizontal certainties of waking life, Dream of Xibalba reaches—downward, upward—to 'names you’ve forgotten,' 'names you never knew.'"

Jos Charles

"In this vivid book-length poetic sequence in 12 parts, Stephanie Adams-Santos investigates the fraught, elusive territory where memory and history intersect with presence, and landscape is haunted by dream and disappearance. Here is a world where a long-dead ancestor is 'forever burning in place,' a bird nips 'at its own shadow,' and 'There is nothing here / that will tell you who you are.'" 
—Laurie Sheck



Stephanie Adams-Santos's work spans poetry, prose, and screenwriting. She is the author of the full-length poetry collection Swarm Queen's Crown (a Lambda Literary Award finalist), as well as the chapbooks Total Memory and The Sundering (New York Chapbook Fellowship, Poetry Society of America). Her short story "Night Flowers" appeared in the Latinx anthology Speculative Fiction for Dreamers. Adams-Santos has served as Staff Writer and Story Editor on the television anthology horror series Two Sentence Horror Stories (CW/Netflix). Her episode "Elliot" won a 2022 Gold Telly Award in Writing. As an inaugural fellow of The 2022 Ojalá Ignition Fellowship, she developed an original fantasy pilot based on the world and characters of the Tarot. Most recently, she was a fellow of The 2022 Sundance Episodic Lab, developing an animated dystopian sci-fi/fantasy pilot. In addition to her literary work, Adams-Santos is a professional Tarot reader and is making headway on an original Major Arcana tarot deck inspired by occult animism.

Dream of Xibalba, a poem by Stephanie Adams-Santos

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