Impressions of a Seeker
Lifted to the Wind: Poems 1974 – 2015 by Susan Gardner
Red Mountain Press, 2015
Susan Gardner’s latest book feels special to the touch. The texture of the cover and the following pages, displaying imagistic poems and supplemental ink paintings and calligraphy, effectively move the reader to contemplate the glory of the natural world as well as everyday.
Gardner’s poems draw on her wide-ranging travels and her knowledge of several world cultures and religions. Her collection draws the reader into a timeless, holy conversation—as if prayer is a pattern of observation and response, a way of seeking truth beyond the immediate surface. A careful reading of Lifted to the Wind requires a reflective, contemplative mood. The work functions as ritual. The aesthetic control that Gardner exhibits rewards such careful attention.
Her work connects readers to a poetic tradition that endures despite the limits of time and the restraints of language and society.
-Ken Hada, author of Persimmon Sunday
Susan Gardner is the founding editor of Red Mountain Press, which, in the ten years of its existence has done so much to spread fine poetry—in beautifully produced volumes—throughout the land.
Her poems are of that life-changing variety that, like good paintings, invite you to enter them as you might a secret cave or garden, experience them deeply—and thereby discover hidden facets of yourself. Little wonder they are so vivid and enticing: Gardner is also an acclaimed painter and photographer, with numerous exhibitions in museums and galleries. In her spare time she has been a house builder, scholarly researcher, teacher and landscape designer.
LIFTED TO THE WIND is Gardner’s sixth book. A rich collection of poems from over four decades, illuminated with original brush-and-ink work, it was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “Sonically and linguistically rich,” with “fresh metaphors and vivid images [that] linger….”
– Diane Tomas, author of In Wilderness
Themes of nature, travel, relationships, and current events run through Gardner’s (To Inhabit the Felt World, 2013, etc.) collected poems, some of which are also in Spanish.
Gardner, a writer and visual artist based in New Mexico, presents a sonically and linguistically rich set of verses mined from foreign travels, personal interactions, and experiences of the natural world. “Locked Gate” tells the story of a Guatemalan woman who disappeared in 1980. “No body. No grave. Not a strand of hair” remains, yet, “Remembered…she’s alive as you or me.” Other protest poems address the mistreatment of women (“we know the sorrow of / our younger sisters”) and the pervasiveness of violence (“Any time is the time / to go to war”). Elsewhere, verses resemble haiku in their concision and natural focus, especially the central quartet of sections named after the seasons. Fresh metaphors and vivid images linger: “Thunder rolls its baritone song nearby” and “white-whiskered crane alone / in morning stillness.” “Cezanne’s Apples” and “Garden Bench” are two of the strongest poems. The former includes an array of color (“viridian, carmine, cochineal”), while the latter’s sibilance (“Sumptuous excess silences slow wind”) is a good example of alliteration. “Yellow,” a frequent adjective, lends a nostalgic glow to “Montserrat Revisited,” one of several standout travel poems: “last tenacious yellow cleaves to sycamore.” The gentle eroticism of “Desiderata” finds muted resonance in “Bedtime Story,” in which two people dream of building a bed of aspens. The bed is a symbol for their marriage, and there is a deliberate echo of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” as they wonder, “Would the center hold?” Physics and Internet security, respectively, provide the unusual vocabulary for two later poems. Care has clearly been taken over the varied stanza lengths and indentation, while Gardner’s brush-stroke images are germane illustrations. Twenty-five poems are accompanied by Spanish versions—an additional gift for bilingual readers.
Precise language and imagery reinforce the conclusion that noticing leads to enlightenment: “a few things / unremarked / awaken us to this life.”
Finalist for the Da Vinci Eye Award for cover art and design.
Exploding in consonants and fertile juxtapositions of verbs with their luxuriant tenses, rubbing against the grain… celebrating the meaning of anything seen, held, or enjoyed—this collection rocks the reader in ways post-modern poetry never will…. these poems make us want to believe in the human project—the words breathe and beat with music and electricity….” Indeed, these poems go after life, dragging it in, holding it close—devouring it through iambs and “…the Felt World.” — Eric Hoffer Book Award, Honorable Mention for Poetry
To Inhabit the Felt World is a collection of poetry from Susan Gardner, as she presents her own unique interpretation of the universe…. [With] awareness and wisdom, To Inhabit the Felt World is a fine addition to contemporary poetry collections, recommended — Midwest Book Review
Susan Gardner’s spare but urgent collection of poems, To Inhabit the Felt World, is “the roar of alive”…. I don’t believe I have ever read lines of such ferocity, honesty and pain….
To Inhabit the Felt World is a remarkable collection by a remarkable poet/painter/photographer. — Elizabeth Raby, poet, author of Ink on Snow
The sinews of Ms. Gardner’s poetic form elevate our own perceptions, so that we too, may unabashedly inhabit the felt world and restore those moments, which deem us human and aesthetically free. — Gary Worth Moody, author of Hazards of Grace
Susan takes us by the throat… into seemingly veiled poems that leave haunting images for us to reinterpret, to meditate upon. These are poems for the poet-breath within us. One reading, one long breath is not enough.… As a fellow poet, I am revived by this gathering of penetrating tenderness. — James McGrath, author of At the Edgelessness of Light, Dreaming invisible Voices and Speaking With Magpies
painfully honest and joyously expressive. You can almost hear the voice of the poet in the structure of the poems and in the powerful cadence of the words. Susan’s work speaks of honest emotion, introspection, and heart. — Sharon Vander Meer, Happenstance
beautiful in production and text — Joan Logghe, Poet Laureate Santa Fe 2010-2012 and author of The Singing Bowl
I’m honored that my new book TO INHABIT THE FELT WORLD has been nominated as a finalist for the da Vinci Eye prize for cover art. The cover image is from my WaterLight series.
New York Public Library
A book connects us to one another through time and space. We hold the author’s ideas in our hand unmediated by anything except our own curiosity.
The children’s room
five steps above the main floor
open shelves for young patrons
librarian’s desk near the door
Read pictures, read poems
hushed rustle of pages
dust motes in the window’s sunlight shaft
bindings across silk-smooth golden maple
quiet clicks stamp dates on paper slips
Borrow armfuls of books
Five steps down, secreted from infant eyes,
Necessary whispers only. Perfect.
Marble beasts before limestone columns
across hundreds of steps
mimes mug for nickels
anxious lovers suspended in anticipation of one face
arms overflow with books unaligned
readers ascend to their shared home
scholars climb the white flights
ernest heads bow with weight of words
Double-storied coffered domes over stacks,
asylum for earth’s every thought
city’s every scholar,
aged and child
have a place at this table
sounds brush through silent space,
talk soft at the desk,
shoes cross marble floors
index fingers slide under corners
impatient to turn pages
everything we touch is paper
thoughts from yesterday and millennia before
seined in paged nets
On heads bent over books
brass lamps shine gold
consolation for the lonely
comfort for the cold
solace for the bereft
stay until the midnight closing hour
For Love of Red
Red silk wet on pine needles.
Maple and sumac glimmer red against the road
neither red as the red wool blanket
in my blue room.
Coyote families sing to each other in the dusk
sun flares redden mountains
sky blue as lapis lazuli
until moonless black night uncovers stars.
blue scraps of sky
crack out clouds
dull winter ground
snow we’ve longed for
clouds bank black against less black mountains
flying snow crosses dusky sun
fractured into winter rainbow
Morning fog lifts its wet weight
red twig shines
Clouds in a prism of urgency
rush to the sea
An insect passes
lost in last summer’s litter.
night draws each body
over moonless horizon
orbit toward dawn
shapeless quiet slides over the roof
in deepening dusk
rain channels bark
fog drips on a forest mouse
somewhere near a song
scumbled over the landscape
undulates under blue clouds
half the spectrum broken
over the roiled surface
defined by ivory-black ribbons
of frozen rivers
no bird dares the winter sky
this titanium cylinder
radiant in the stratosphere
flies high in the face of sense.