New York Public Library

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,

forbidden treasure


Necessary whispers only.  Perfect.





Marble beasts before limestone columns

allow passage

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,

idler, pencil-pusher,

venerable, solitary,

prized, repudiated

                                   aged and child

have a place at this table


sounds brush through silent space,

talk soft at the desk,

pencils scribble,

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


DRAWING THE LINE ~ A Passionate Life

Kirkus Reviews

“much to ponder in this reflective memoir.” — Kirkus Reviews

The author recounts her life with an artist’s eye, furnishing telling details about the places and people she encounters. Arranged by locale, chapters contain shorter sections prefaced by a thematic word or phrase such as “No More Talking” or “The Dress,” making the book more accessible and richer than a list of events. 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: “There was war in the Pacific and in Europe, and in our apartment.” In this way, her writing mirrors her line 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.

Artists, writers and other “outsiders” will find much to ponder in this reflective memoir. — Kirkus Reviews


The Eric Hoffer Award

Honorable Mention

Drawing the Line: A Passionate Life, Susan Gardner, Red Mountain Press – The author has become an internationally known painter, photographer, and poet, and has traveled in Asia, Mexico, France, Canada, and throughout this country. Much of her artwork and some of her poems are included here. Although she has always been creative, she writes, “Being an artist was not a label I sought or understood. It is my identity, not a job… The intense desire for the work of making art is a yearning necessity, as irresistible as the most attractive and jealous lover.” ….This memoirist does not have grudges to bear; rather, her book reveals a fortunate woman, moving through her life’s adventures and disappointments with almost unflagging perseverance. It should especially provide inspiration for readers who are earlier on the risky yet rewarding path to “following one’s bliss.”

Drunken Boat # 15

Drawing the Line, a passionate life A Life Beyond the Lines by Jessica Treat

“Gardner’s memoir is most interesting and impressive…”

Susan Gardner is a poet and artist whose memoir, Drawing the Line, chronicles the life of a woman who increasingly places the rigor and discipline of art and the act of creation at the center of her life…..Gardner’s memoir is most interesting and impressive for its chronicle of the life of a highly intelligent, capable woman….

After an initial chapter in Mexico, Drawing the Linefollows Gardner’s life chronologically in a manner… which the reader comes to find increasingly compelling. The balance Gardner strikes between reserve and divulgence seems right, and the honesty and clear-sightedness with which she relates the continual challenges (the loss of a child, her husband’s affairs, exclusion from the working sphere abroad) as well as the resources she is able to draw from in facing them bind the reader to her with great compassion and respect.  Wherever she lives, she attempts to reach out, to create community, a life much larger than the one prescribed to her.  “From very early childhood I learned that because I was able to, I must do what was required of me,” (90) Susan Gardner writes. Here she chronicles her journey from meeting the requirements of being a daughter, sister, wife, mother, foreign service spouse, to those dictated by her art and her heart.  Gardner’s memoir will interest many….

Blood Lotus #22  Nov 2011 pp61-62 

Drawing the Line ~  Passionate Life is a work to savor…. imbued with the same vitality, restraint, and dignity as a perfect line. – Diane Thomas, author of The Year the Music Changed blood lotus November 2011 p61-62

More commentary:

Drawing The Line is a beautiful story of a woman’s struggle to be herself…. a personal exploration of the last six decades, and a peek into the formation of an artist…. – San Francisco Book Review
 August 2011

Drawing the Line is a fine memoir with plenty to absorb throughout. – Midwest Book Review/Small Press BookWatch Vol 10 No.8 August 2011

Gardner has given us a meticulously detailed, ruthlessly honest and emotionally redemptive story…. Drawing the Line generously offers that epiphany to all of us. – Wayne Lee, author of Doggerel & Caterwauls: Poems Inspired by Cats & Dogs

… sophisticated in its simplicity and profound in its lack of guile. Drawing the Line is soulful and beautiful. – Marc Talbert, author of Altogether Ernest

Susan Gardner’s DRAWING THE LINE is a poignant and touching personal story that vividly captures what it is to grow and discover, not only as an artist, but as a human being. – Scott Harrison, Artistic Director, Ironweed Productions