Words About the Work



Lifted to the Wind is artist and poet Susan Gardner’s sixth book, a rich collection of poems from over four decades illuminated with original brush-and-ink work. 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

It stopped me in my tracks…. Poems inspired by art, a process called ekphrasis, are legion, Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” based on Breughel’s “The Fall of Icarus” being one of the best. 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 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 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

Impressions of a Seeker

Lifted to the Wind: Poems 1974 – 2015 by Susan Gardner

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

Susan Gardner is the founding editor of Red Mountain Press, which, in the ten years of its existence has done so much to spread fine poetry—in beautifully produced volumes—throughout the land.

Her poems are of that life-changing variety that, like good paintings, invite you to enter them as you might a secret cave or garden, experience them deeply—and thereby discover hidden facets of yourself. Little wonder they are so vivid and enticing: Gardner is also an acclaimed painter and photographer, with numerous exhibitions in museums and galleries. In her spare time she has been a house builder, scholarly researcher, teacher and landscape designer.

LIFTED TO THE WIND is Gardner’s sixth book. A rich collection of poems from over four decades, illuminated with original brush-and-ink work, it was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “Sonically and linguistically rich,” with “fresh metaphors and vivid images [that] linger….”

– Diane Tomas, author of In Wilderness


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

Susan Gardner’s Inhabit the Felt World reflects her arts background—she is a professional artist. She understands the implicit images within language. Colors blare from her verse, like “skin blood burnished” (“Desiderata”), “motionless pewter sky” (“Snowy Day”), and “verdigris-bronze head on the wall” (“Garden Bench”). Another stanza from “Garden Bench” shows her ability to make time’s subtle motion visible to the reader:

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

One of her most astounding poems is a love poem, “That Day,” which begins:

Knock your elbow against the edge of the door,

the funny bone sends a thrill of shock

right to your brain.

On this hot morning

our eyes knock. . . .

Balance, perspective, foreground and background—all of these appear in the work. Gardner’s beautifully produced book informs the deep structures of geography. She writes about the bedrock, the “Antediluvian fossils,” and the continuous motion of the natural surroundings. The poet is aware of each passing moment, and she is able to capture the pain of its loss. This tragedy creates painful beauty. – Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate, author of MELANGE BLOCK

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 NIGHT

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, 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 

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


Kirkus Reviews

“surprising nuance and depth”

“much to ponder in this reflective 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 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. — Kirkus Reviews https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/susan-gardner/drawing-the-line-sgpPxDtA/

The Eric Hoffer Award 

Honorable Mention for Memoir

Drawing the Line: A Passionate Life, Susan Gardner, Red Mountain Press – This memoir chronicles six decades of a successful artist’s life. The author has become an internationally known painter, photographer, and poet…. Much of her artwork and some of her poems are included here… [S]he 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.” http://www.theusreview.com/USRhoffer.html#memoir

Drunken Boat

“most interesting and impressive” “the honesty and clear-sightedness… bind the reader to her with great compassion and respect.”

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 ….she finds her way around obstacles and limitations to a life of great integrity and accomplishment that includes teaching, public service, fluency in first Korean and then Japanese, along with painting, drawing, printmaking, gallery shows and expositions.

Drawing the Line follows 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… 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…. 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. – A Life Beyond the Lines Jessica Treat http://www.drunkenboat.com/db15/drawing-the-line-a-passionate-life

More Commentary

Susan’s poetry welcomes us into the light of awareness. Using the language at its most effective, she captures the moments, familiar to all us, where light and expression meet. Her accomplished artistic talents allow us an intimate understanding of nature and its impact in our lives… and we blessed by their meaning. – John Stafford, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Susan Gardner’s Box of Light/Caja de Luz is a colorful volume of eloquent Spanish and English poems…. I read each poem as an original, and each pair as a doubled origin—a binary star of sorts—with parallel trajectories into Gardner’s imagination…..

Gardner is an artist of atmosphere. Her style is unpretentious, austere, yet various…. Gardner’s syllables, round as stream pebbles, are reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s paraphrase of Occum’s razor: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”…. The lovely cousinship of two languages — Spanish and English — may be compared to the song of a musical instrument whose two strings, bowed or plucked, resonate with others in rich harmonic overtones…. 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.

As a silver stain painted on a piece of glass is fired to permanence—yellow to orange, amber or brown—each poem bleeds moods, tones, and hues in subtle ripples and depths….  -Karen An-Hwei Lee, poet, Santa Ana, California

(The images) arise as evenly, as naturally proper as the marks of high tide on a beach, as obviously and as surprisingly as the… patterns of color on a bird’s wing.  This is not mimesis but synthesis. There is synthesis, too, in (her) latticework of acquired traditions- the great modernist masters- Matisse, Klee and Picasso- blend, without a ripple, into her training in Chinese landscape painting and Japanese calligraphy.

In a sense (her) work relates more to music than to literature: music alludes to an abstract flow that carries its rush of feelings through both certain and indefinite emotions. (She) is such a symbolist; her art speaks of what is not seen and yet is present, of what is common and yet redeemably precious. – J.W. Mahoney, critic, essayist, Washington, DC

The current exhibit…is devoted to the architecture and countryside of Korea. But the inspiration behind the images was Gardner’s awareness of human interaction with history, tradition and the land. Gardner infuses her photography with an appreciation for line and a sense of stillness and simplicity. – Craig Smith, critic, New Mexican, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The line of her work is… dynamic, vigorous, full of life and rhythm… capable of synthesizing the esthetic expression in a few marks of vigorous brushwork.

Her landscapes…seem in the same way uncomplicated and very elemental….It is necessary to keep in mind the great difficulty that is signified by reaching such a capacity for synthesis… There are in these works a subtle and parsimonious use of color, reserved and discreet application of texture and a simplicity of drawing in the rhythmically placed orographic chains; all of which gives atmospheres full of suggestibility and intense lyricism. – Jose Luis Meza Inda, critic, El Informador, (daily newspaper) Guadalajara, Mexico

Every picture evokes a poem… words come to us, dancing in our minds,inviting assembly. Every poem evokes an image …,responding to the meanings and nuances of the text. What a joy it is to be able to respond in such a manner to the art of such a diversely gifted person. – Peter Michaelides, composer, Albuquerque, New Mexico

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