Impressions of a Seeker A Review of Lifted to the Wind by Ken Hada

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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

Lifted to the Wind – Kirkus Review

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.”

-Kirkus Reviews

Recognition for TO INHABIT THE FELT WORLD

The photograph is from the WaterLight series.

The photograph is from the WaterLight series.

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

TO INHABIT THE FELT WORLD

To-Inhabit-COVER-7.5x9-webcopy

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

She urges us

“take one breath,

exhale

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