Lifted to the Wind
2018 Montaigne Medal 2nd place, Lascaux Prize for Poetry finalist, and the New Mexico Book Award second place.
Lifted to the Wind is artist and poet Susan Gardner’s sixth book, a rich collection of poems from over four decades illuminated by seven pages with original brush-and-ink work and one photograph. Her mostly short poems, some in Spanish as well as English, probe the complexities and contradictions of human experience—art, love, loneliness, eros, even war—even as they portray the natural world with vividness and precision: “Thin ice cracks in tatters” in “Nebraska Sunrise”; “Thunder rolls its baritone song” in “Rain in Santa Clara.” Yet they don’t stop there—as we see the girl in “August” “listening to the shadows,” and as “Galaxy” concludes, there’s “Still a trace of red sky beyond the grounded world,” these poems take us to another dimension: they lift us to the wind.
– Gordon Ball, author of East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg, Dark Music, and ’66 Frames: A Memoir
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…. 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….“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”…. 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.”
– Kirkus Reviews
It stopped me in my tracks…. Poems inspired by art, a process called ekphrasis, are legion…. But what happens when poet and painter inhabit the same body? Well, Susan Gardner’s work is what happens. She invites you to see a poem and, I suspect, read a painting. The poems are invitations to set aside your narrative expectations and let the mind rest, take in an image, a detail, participate in a meditative process, a sort of sensory and spiritual inventory. They are painterly snapshots inviting us to view a world largely unmediated, the “I” noticeably absent, giving precedence to the “eye.”
– Gary Geddes, author of What Does A House Want? and winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region) and Gabriela Mistral Prize.
Susan Gardner creates a recursive chain of splendid poems in Lifted to the Wind: Poems 1974-2015. She splashes lasting images across pages, defining aesthetic moments that indeed are “lifted” outside chronologies. This innovative collection is a primer for other writers…. Her painterly perspective celebrates colors, textures, and shapes…. Readers may lose themselves in this and other individual poems—or read the book straight through. In either case, they will return to savor Gardner’s words over and over. This book, embellished with the poet’s own illustrations, is a lasting work of art.
– Denise Low, author of Jackalope and Mélange Block
In Susan Gardner’s expansive new poetry collection, she pays homage to those gone, those still here, and the quiet motions of what’s alive all around us, available through pilgrimages across great distances and also by staying still enough to open our peripheral vision. Some of the poems, translated into Spanish, tell in two languages the nuances of place and the other-than-human species inhabiting wherever we are. From the New York City public library to a Nebraska sunrise to a “body of light” in Barcelona, these poems celebrate the vibrancy and vision of a lifetime.
– Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate
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. 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, in Whale Rider Review
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, in Whale Rider Review
Some of the poems I recognized from her other books. Reading them altogether makes her voice even clearer. Her love for nature and keen observation of natural cycles, seasons, places and spaces is strongest in the short haiku-like poems…. She has brought her unique vision of the world, her concerns, passions, and intelligence to the page. – Ann Filemyr, author of Love Enough
To Inhabit the Felt World
— Eric Hoffer Award, Honorable Mention for Poetry
– Midwest Book Review, February 13, 2013
“beautiful in production and text”
— Joan Logghe, Poet Laureate Santa Fe 2010-2012 and author of The Singing Bowl
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 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
Drawing the Line - A Passionate Life
Eric Hoffer Book Award, Honorable Mention for Memoir.
The author recounts her life with an artist’s eye, furnishing telling details about the places and people she encounters. Despite the disappointments in her life, the narrator doesn’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, she ties her experiences to political and historical events with clear, sometimes funny one-liners…. [H]er writing mirrors her drawings—simple lines with surprising nuance and depth. The book’s title evokes her love of calligraphy, her meandering travels, her poetry (the book includes several poems) and society’s expectations for women that she must decide to uphold or not. Her deliberate storytelling style makes for thoughtful… reading.
“much to ponder in this reflective memoir.”
— Kirkus Reviews
– Kirkus Reviews
“most interesting and impressive”
– Drunken Boat
“a work to savor…. imbued with the same vitality, restraint, and dignity as a perfect line”
– Blood Lotus
Box of Light ~ Caja de Luz
— John Stafford, Santa Fe, New Mexico
The musical vowels of her poetry give us a quiet assurance centered upon domestic spaces and natural settings, each word hovering in its own luminous space, although some poems hint occasionally at unrest, violence, and global conflict…. each poem bleeds moods, tones, and hues in subtle ripples and depths….
— Karen An-Hwei Lee, poet, Santa Ana, California
Stone Music ~ The Art and Poetry of Susan Gardner
Intimate Landscapes Chapbook, St John’s College, Santa Fe 1998
Chapbook, St John’s College, Santa Fe 1998