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
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.
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.
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,
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
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,
foundered in the torrent
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
they leave their coffee to grow cold
the phenomenological world
blind to the world
they take one breath,
then one more
deaf to all but one voice,
bellies, breasts, crotch, hair,
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
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,
at the edge
scraping the soul
two, cancered with regret
shrunk into a teaspoon of sown salt.
Hard tumor of hurt
No need for absolution
left with fingers
bent backward off open palms,
calloused with unanswered forgiveness
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,
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
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
chest with dark red velvet lining
Round another corner
A sign says
all the objects
are left behind
and may yet be reclaimed