I am so honored to be part of this festival; glad that Cloud Pharmacy will take me into the clouds to travel to Boston in May. I've planned very little so far for this book's launch and so I"m really excited to have my home state be the first real tour (and perhaps only). On Wednesday, April 30th I read at Porter Square Books in Cambridge with Jennifer Markell. On Thursday I'm reading in Newburyport with Rhina Espalt and others. It's going to be a wild time. Please come! Please say hello!
A Look at Susan Rich:
A Massachusetts Poetry Festival Feature Poet
Susan Rich is a prolific poet with the energy to pursue both her creative and her humanitarian impulses. But the poetry in Rich’s life, as she explains below in her own words, was almost cut short by professors who advised her to try “something else.” Rich set poetry aside for a time, but, lucky enough for all of us, she returned to her craft after twelve long years away.
Rich was educated at our own University of Massachusetts and Harvard University, as well as the University of Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. In Seattle, she teaches at Highline Community College, as well as running a reading series there, “Highline Listens: Writers Read Their Work.”
A Few Questions for Susan Rich
Who had the most impact on your writing when you were a beginning poet? In what way?
I was estranged from poetry when I discovered the beautiful work of Elizabeth Bishop, particularly her poem, “Questions of Travel.” At the time, I had just returned from two years in the Peace Corps in West Africa and felt a great deal of affinity to Ms. Bishop’s life and work. The fact that she had also grown up in Massachusetts, had traveled faraway, and then lived on another continent caught my attention. Her under-appreciated humor and cadenced lines infused with irony and heartbreak have kept me a fan for life.
Now I live in Seattle and have visited the apartment building (The Brooklyn) where she lived during her time teaching at the University of Washington. It’s as if I am on a lifelong journey with her. Whenever I travel, Bishop’s Complete Poems accompany me. When I teach, I often encourage my students to choose a “Dead Mentor” so that they, too, can claim a poet for life.
What convinced you that you had to be a poet?
Poetry was a constant companion since I was very young. At thirteen I wrote a poem filled with teenage angst and showed it to my English teacher, Mr. Katz. From there, he brought the poem to the principal and before I knew what was happening, my poem became our class graduation performance piece. What a strange and wondrous thing! Still, flash forward another 10 years and I had all but given up on poetry. I had been told by my university professors that I had better try something else. And for 12 years I did; their condemnation shut me down. It was a very painful period. Yet, when I began writing again, began changing my life to put poetry at the center, I knew that poetry had come back to stay.
What do you think is the most exciting development in poetry today?
New presses popping up in Detroit, Seattle, and lots of other places not traditionally known for publishing houses is one great new thing. Of course these “houses” are often basement sofas, coffee shop offices and pick-up offices. The ability to record poems and send them over smart phones onto the internet thrills me. I love hearing poets read their own poems. I love the strangeness of reading my poems into my phone alone in a hotel room or out for a walk and then finding then online in an interview the next day.
To read more of this interview click here