June 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1737054528

6 x 9 in

142 pages

POETRY / Death, Grief, Loss

POETRY / Women Authors

BIO & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / People with Disabilities

Whispers From Her Deathbed

A Posthumous Poetry Collection

by Janavi Held

Edited by Catherine L. Schweig

2023 SILVER NAUTILUS BOOK AWARD WINNER in the category of Death & Dying / Grief & Loss Poetry

RUNNER-UP WINNER in the poetry category

2022 Pencraft Book Awards for Literary Excellence

This collection of poems, bravely and vulnerably, chronicles Janavi’s journey, —in beautiful, poignant phrases— as she lived with a painful, chronic illness, that, inspired her to dive deep into her core.

The book, edited by Catherine L. Schweig, features cover art by talented Illustrator Landis Blair.

All proceeds from the books go toward the Janavi Held Endowed Poetry and Art Grant established in her memory. 

“This part of myself was not a gentle breeze, but more like a hurricane that would have its way, regardless. I would have to follow wherever it led me.”

— Janavi Held

“In Whispers from Her Deathbed, Janavi Held invites us to meet our own mortality as she meets hers. ‘I embody what no one wants to know,’ she writes, yet some of us hunger for these poems that blossom out of that ‘inner flower garden’ at the boundary of life and death. These are courageous poems, poems that listen, poems that question, poems that beg for, and deliver, mercy.”

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, author of Hush and Naked for Tea

“‘Endless todays, endless todays.”  How richly giving these words are! We experience today as having a finite beginning, middle and end, but strung together, you end up with a duration unfathomable in its breadth and depth. Or, was Janavi pointing to the eternity in one day, in each moment in time —  the eternal as our inheritance, our birthright, the beacon of our conscious journey through life? Of the many gifts that this book offers, I would like to highlight this: the stark brilliance with which Janavi held in her fiercely brave, fragile soul the contradictions and paradoxes of life and living, and the healing to be found in exploring doubt and wonder, suffering and transcendence, the material and the divine. With each poem, I feel I am holding Janavi’s hand as she whispers to me a story that is deeply personal, and sublimely universal. Janavi lived her shortened life with her eyes wide open, soul on fire, and heart ever-expanding. It is our infinite fortune that she left us with a masterful blueprint for how we might do the same.”

Tammy Stone Takahashi, author of LAND and Yoga Healing Love

“Janavi Held’s final yet eternal mystic words spoken through Whispers from Her Deathbed transform the reader to wind tracing the shapes of soft trees, to flowing and undammed holy river— her namesake. ‘And the river restless, running, shocking cold to tree roots who rest and reach to her…’ It’s as though she reaches for us from the other worlds, waking us from the mundane existence of living on earth, into actual LIFE. From the physical painful prison of her dying body, her transcendent spirit sings the ancient wisdom of ‘the turning stars… the geometry of flowers, the creativity of earth’s design, the personalism of trees, and the humility of grass growing like freedom.’ She begs those of us who hear her to continue to find beauty in the struggle of human striving, to search for light in the seemingly endless darkness, to know that ‘love owns eternity and nothing more,’ and to know that our Sister is finally Home. ‘She is a river full of mercy and feminine waves… she cannot be contained by dams. In her, sacred dancing myth and true stories collide. Bravery lives in her waters, and kindness washes up on her pale shores.’ Janavi is held only by the Infinite now. In these poems, she sends ‘a message through the chains of time and space... I am speaking freedom/ I am inside freedom/ my life sits inside the palm of the universe… If I have loved beyond reason, will you still remember my name?’”

Kai Coggin, author of Mining for Stardust, Incandescent, and Wingspan

Janavi Held (1965–2018) was a dancer, photographer, yogini, artist and poet born in Brooklyn. After struggling with chronic illness for years, she became bedridden in the last years of her life. During this time, Janavi immersed herself in artistic and spiritual growth. 

Janavi passed away at the age of 53 in Colorado, leaving behind a voluminous oeuvre spanning across various mediums of expression.


Catherine L. Schweig, editor, founded Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry in 2012, an online project from which five anthologies emerged, the latest titled Goddess: When She Rules (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2018). Catherine was a very dear friend of Janavi’s, who communicated very closely with her in the years leading up to her demise. Catherine serves on the board of the Janavi Held Endowed Poetry and Art Grant. She and her husband live near the Powhatan River, and together mentor students in ahimsa living via ancient yoga psychology and philosophy.

More books by Catherine