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Susan Gardner is a poet, painter, photographer and literary editor. Her first work in poetry was composed in the form of Japanese calligraphy while she was living in Japan in the 1970s. She now writes in English and Spanish. Her three previous books of poetry as well as the award-winning memoir, Drawing the Line, all contain the lyrical beauty, intense range of subjects and composite of personal experience that sharply engages universal recognition and are the hallmark of her poetic vision. Karen An-Hwei Lee wrote, “The musical vowels of her poetry give us a quiet assurance... each word hovering in its own luminous space..." John Stafford wrote of her, "Susan’s poetry welcomes us into the light of awareness." Her first work of poetry is Intimate Landscapes (with a photography exhibition at St. John’s College, Santa Fe). Stone Music- The Art and Poetry of Susan Gardner is an overview of both her visual and poetic work. Box of Light~Caja de Luz is a bilingual book of poetry with drawings. Drawing the Line ~ A Passionate Life, a memoir, was published in 2011.TO INHABIT THE FELT WORLD will be published in spring 2013. She has presented programs at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the Folger Library, among many others. Invited to deliver the Cam Memorial Lecture at the New York Public Library, she was also honored to be granted a year in the Allen Room. Her poetry as well as her paintings, photographs and prints integrate her extensive travels and cultural experience and yet still suggest the influence of her early training in East Asia: classical painting in Korea followed by calligraphy and printmaking in Japan. Her first poetry was written in Japanese calligraphy, later followed by works in Spanish as well as English. She makes her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Box of Light ~ Caja de Luz

Box of Light


At six in the afternoon

the air is heavy with sun

filled with intimations of the coming evening

still holding a lovely light


A motionless moment


I put my memories of the future

in this box of light.


Caja de luz


A las seis de la tarde

el aire está pesado de sol

lleno de insinuaciones de la noche que se acerca

sostiene todavía una luz feliz


Un momento inmóvil


Pongo mis recuerdos del porvenir

en esta caja de luz.

Deep Water

Deep Water


sun-stunned dark water

touches curved blue atmosphere

ultramarine horizon invisible


skin darkens in fevered summer air

sweat a salty sheen

black curls halo over reddening ears

legs stiff at water’s boundary


plunge in, drown in brilliant delight

weightless, jubilant

float besotted


I learn to swim

Garden Bench


Garden Bench


Narrowing path


overrun with elephant ears, birds-of-paradise,

pampas grass, plumed with decay.


Tentacles avid, relentlessly accelerate.

Sumptuous excess silences slow wind.


In canopy leaves reach for sky.


Alone here, unlonely,

immolant joy.


Between seasons, angled apart, the stone rests on gray schist legs.


Each dry winter, cemented

in their shrunken rigid waterless bed

desiccated stems flake to dust

Leaves of streamside trees

wait for July rain to decompose.


Each rainy summer night it sinks another iota toward its ancestral home

amidst the bedrock

of the river’s underground channel

tipping  imperceptibly

aslant in the slippery loam


The path a dirt track, no longer wide enough for two people to pass,

once planted, now wild


below steep rock steps a derelict fountain,

verdigris-bronze head on the wall

calcified mouth unable to spout the rainy runoff.


There the bench waited for decades.


Broken sun glints through heavy foliage.


I dream the afternoon.


Words fall through cascade of air.


Lines found in any order,


folded away,


found again,

foundered in the torrent

found sheltered

this reader of stone in the rain.



a                  a                a


Along a wide path,

white with florescent light,

white with cold empty shining air

immaculate, pristine, precise,

five people, a crowd covered in blue,

walk steady and resolute .



on the rolling platform

I dream back this sheltered garden.


The tiny black mystery, size of a fingernail, sends its life out

in threads, ready to take mine in suicidal excess.

They, steadfast under blue lights, mean to murder

this malignant monster.


Silence and noise, garden leaves,

insects and wind, muffled footsteps



A stone in the river ,washed smooth

by twenty years absence,

lies wet in the sunshine.


Gentle in its muddy bed,

heavy in my hand now, its body

contains the igneous history of the world.


A wader in this stream,

I step in the icy flow and fall

against its solid actuality.







I          Coffee break

they lean into the space between them

faces illuminated with interest

or pheromones

they leave their coffee to  grow cold


he explains

    the phenomenological world

            materialist dialectics

kama sutra


blind to the world

they take one breath,


then one more


deaf to all but one voice,

bellies, breasts, crotch, hair,


limerance absolute


immeasurable, preposterous, unquenchable appetite

ravenous for bone and skin

avid for muscle, fat, blood


finger pads on webbing of toes

hair against breast, tongue edging earlobe

voice in the valley

notched between the ends of clavicles


the roar of alive


II         Lust


He just wants

dominion over money, mind, body, over piles of flesh

ownership of toes, taste buds, hips

ownership of thought, intention, ambition

piles of stuff no one wants


She holds hurt in her bones,

in mind

in dreams

at the edge

of fingernails

scraping the soul

two, cancered with regret


shrunk into a teaspoon of sown salt.


 III       Weight



Hard tumor of hurt


No need for absolution




no amends


left with fingers


bent backward off open palms,

calloused with unanswered forgiveness


Montserrat Revisited



Montserrat Revisited


November drizzle dismisses easy days

sky fog belts rocky towers

last tenacious yellow cleaves to sycamore


Wet cobbles cross the village

past sienna-plastered walls

to the arched churchly porch


High-window light falls on young faces

wide eyes, open mouths release ordinary voices

celestial in the stone space


Long aisles interrupted with chapels

virgin heroines long departed

kings, conquerors, redeemers


One new brilliant glass-doored space, punctuated with

crossed hands, crossed feet,

thorned corona

to enter, hands push against the wooden bar

caress the carved history of Catalunya


Gentle-voiced crowd edges around the perimeter

up sloped steps scooped out by each pilgrim’s foot

the black Madonna, centuries of candled

smoke and love shine on her face


Long promenade, black iron choirs

of fat, thin, tall, short,

red, green, white pillars

flame with hope


outside people are passing by

one more door


Red walls, shining wood floor, bright lights,

a room full of things


Two long white glowing wedding dresses

sequins, embroidery, gathered stitching

cover silk petticoats and sheer linings


black sleeves touch white silk

a very short suit of black wool

young brother to accompany the bride?



brass hooks hold

small shoes

plastic flowers

infant’s yellow bib

summery straw hat

with silk flowers around the crown



tiny girl’s starched pink dress

white rickrack pristine

no dribbles from a meal of applesauce.


past the corner more hooks

a shelf with


music box

chest with dark red velvet lining

Round another corner

more flowers

toys, photographs







A sign says


all the objects

are left behind


and may yet be reclaimed

To Inhabit the Felt World

Box of Light


At six in the afternoon

the air is heavy with sun

filled with intimations of the coming evening

still holding a lovely light


A motionless moment


I put my memories of the future

in this box of light.


Caja de luz


A las seis de la tarde

el aire está pesado de sol

lleno de insinuaciones de la noche que se acerca

sostiene todavía una luz feliz


Un momento inmóvil


Pongo mis recuerdos del porvenir

en esta caja de luz.




Susan Gardner writes “with no other proof but memory.”

She urges us

“take one breath,


then one more.”

Susan takes us by the throat to Toronto Island, Montserrat, the New York Library, a hospital, 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.  Within Susan Gardner’s writing is the deep breath we take at the end of the book that says, I have heard the roar of a poet responding to the love and pain in a private, felt world.

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


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. Yet Gardner continues, observes, listens, “fog drips on a forest mouse/ somewhere near a song.” grows, creates,

Hand circles inside black boundary,

water reflects from black surface

ink blackens

marbles over inkstone


slowly, slowly  readies itself for the brush.

And she opens herself to pasiion, “ the body of one/ raging with joy/ against the surface of the other.” “Not the thickness of a thread is between us… nothing between us but this hour.”

To Inhabit the Felt World is a remarkable collection by a remarkable poet/panter/photographer. – Elizabeth Raby, poet, author of  INK ON SNOW


Appreciation by Gary Worth Moody

Susan Gardner works with poetic forms and visual imagery to capture moments in time. Her poetry and visual art demands that we honor our shared sensual reality. Susan’s work unwraps these moments, then bounds them in all dimensions, with harmonious silence and the symphonic, visual and aural cacophony of nature, which create the social, tactile and psychic space we inhabit. Her work bridges our inevitable sense of memory with a unifying sense of the present.

– Gary Worth Moody, author of HAZARDS OF GRACE