Also writes under: Sarah Appleton
Daughter of William C. and Ellen S. Merriman Appleton; married Joseph G. Weber, 1965; children: Elizabeth, David
Sarah Appleton-Weber is a poet, scholar, and translator whose work is unified by a transforming movement into poetry, plant and animal life, and evolutionary forms. Preparation for this work has involved the study of poetry and sacred history, analogy and symbolism, and the natural sciences, as well as training in cosmic forms through making a new edition and translation of Teilhard de Chardin's Le Phénoméne humain.
Appleton-Weber's poetry (published under the name Sarah Appleton) is marked by the "utter attentiveness, heart delicacy" with which we need to listen to and read the "book of the Earth." Her first sequence of poems, A Plenitude We Cry For (1972), written in the rhetoric of a small horse chestnut tree outside her window in Northampton, Massachusetts, records the transformations of the tree and her own life through a season's growth. Ladder of the World's Joy (1977) was born from the energy and joy of reading Teilhard de Chardin's Le Phénoméne humain, recording the stages, as she read, of human cosmic birth and transformation.
After completing Ladder of the World's Joy, Appleton-Weber returned to Teilhard's book, translating it word by word, to discover the secret of its energy. Out of this came a third sequence of poems, Book of My Hunger, Book of the Earth (unpublished; though many portions have appeared in poetry journals). This is an autobiographical sequence reflecting the work of the poet and the voice of the earth, the precariousness of ever bringing a work together, and the continuity of the call and the grace to do so. In her writing, Appleton-Weber explores the transforming correspondence between herself as a woman and poet—barren, fecund, nurturing, evolving—and the earth.
Appleton-Weber was raised in a small hunting lodge in rural Rhode Island, where her life was nurtured by the pond, woods, and living things around her. She was educated at the Old Field School and received her B.A. from Vassar College (1952). She studied fiction writing at Vassar and spent a semester at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, leaving to join Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker's Maryfarm in Newburgh, New York. At the same time she began her growth as a poet under the guidance of Elizabeth Sewell. In 1953 she was received into the Roman Catholic church. She studied analogy and symbolism at Fordham University with William Lynch, S.J. (1955-56) and worked at a children's shelter, then at the magazines Thought and Jubilee.
Appleton-Weber received her M.A. (1957) and Ph.D. (1961) from Ohio State University and wrote her dissertation on medicinal liturgy and the relationship between sacred history and poetic form, as a way of integrating Christianity and her work of poetry. This study was published as Theology and Poetry in the Middle English Lyric (1969). She taught for three years at Smith College and from 1965-68 she was poetry editor of Literature East and West. Along with poetry readings and workshops at colleges and universities, Appleton-Weber has read poetry on tree walks sponsored by the Academy of American Poets in the New York area.
Appleton-Weber has received grants and fellowships from Smith College (1964), the John Anson Kitteredge Educational Fund (1968-70), and the Creative Arts Public Service Program (1975-76). She was a Bunting Institute Fellow at Radcliffe College (1970-72) and has had residencies at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center.
In France from 1981-83 Appleton-Weber studied Chardin's essays, correspondence, journal, and earlier texts of Le Phénoméne humain. On her return to the U.S. she began a new edition and translation of the work for an American publisher, to make the coherence and synthesis of the book available to readers, and also as a deeper training and tuning to the movements of cosmic evolutionary forms.
Contributor to anthologies and periodicals, including: Literature and the West (June 1966); Hand Book (1978); studia mystica (Fall 1979); Teilhard Perspective (Dec. 1985, Dec. 1987); "Le Christ universal et l'evolution selon Teilhard de Chardin" (Dec. 1990, Dec. 1991).
Appleton, S., Poetry Reading, 5 Feb. 1981, Hamilton College (recording, 1981). Commonweal (24 June 1977). Modern Philology (May 1971). NYTBR (11 Nov. 1973). North American Review (Spring 1977). Review of English Studies (Aug. 1971).