Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Art of the Interview - Seattle Review of Books


In a parallel world,  I am, in turn, a singer, a private detective, an interviewer of interesting people. Of these three professions, I think interviewer might suit me best. A few years ago I was the curator for the Jack Straw Writers Program and my favorite part of the job was interviewing the twelve writers. I learned that a good question can cajole a writer into areas of her (or his) psyche that they may have not ever explored. A strong interview has all the positive qualities of a really interesting conversation with the added benefit of a spotlight on your thoughts and theories.

What's not to love about being interviewed?

Well, if you are an introvert (like me) there are many things to obsess about before the interview; for example, sounding stupid would live at the top of my list.

Turns out, I needn't have worried. Paul Constant of the Seattle Review of Books was charming, intelligent, and best of all, inquisitive. He made me feel interesting and on occasion, smart.

It was an over-the-top honor to be chosen as Poet-in-Residence for the Seattle Review of Books and to be interviewed by Paul Constant (who I recently saw interview Fran Leibowitz at SAL) was the highpoint of the month.

Here's the beginning of the interview with a reveal as to central theme of my next book...


Susan Rich’s poems are beautiful music

by Paul Constant

Susan Rich’s poems thrum with a rhythm all their own. Read any of our May Poet in Residence’s poems and you’ll likely be absorbed in the rhythm of the thing — dense internal rhythms, tricky beats in single lines, sentences that shouldn’t exist but somehow manage to thrive.

I don’t know, for instance, how Rich makes a line like “we accordioned together vaudeville-style” work. But in “Self Portrait with Abortion and Bee Sting,” it not only scans but it feels essential — like the only words that could logically fit there. Her poems are full of those impossible lines — if I ever wrote something as beautiful about an earthworm as “Pink hermaphrodite of the jiggling zither,” I would probably retire in triumph.

to continue reading, click here


Friday, May 18, 2018

One Must Have a Mind of a Gardener


I love how this is beautiful, mystical, and disturbing all at once. In fact, I cannot stop looking. I only hope that my poem in some way enlivens it --- rather than takes away. The interplay of poem and image fascinates me. Here is this week's poem from the Seattle Review of Books with a big nod to Wallace Steven's  The Snow Man. I wonder what he would think?


to continue reading this poem, please check out the Seattle Review of Books ---- to which I am eternally thankful for their belief in my work and the choices that they have made for each week's poem. I especially love that this is appearing at the time that I desperately try to find time to get tomatoes into the ground.

Each year the belief in the indistinct and indeterminate future that it takes to do this amazes me. I didn't grow up gardening so the alchemy of dirt, water, and light to create edible plants simply amazes me. I don't think I am the only one! What do you love to plant?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Poet-in-Residence for the Month of May @ Seattle Review of Books


       I am so stoked to have been invited to be Poet-in-Residence at the Seattle Review of Books for the month of May. What this means is that each Tuesday a new poem of mine will appear on the site with a small tag that states, "Susan Rich is this month's Poet-in-Residence." There's something about being offered this platform by Paul Constant and Martin McClellan that makes me feel a bit more connected to my city. A bit more located.

      This week, my poem "Profiled" is featured; a poem about a student I had a few years ago who was both more fascinating and more frustrating than most who had come before. It is exhausting to be challenged on each word, each sentence, each assignment. And yet. He was engaged with his educational experience and wanted to learn. For the very last reflective assignment, an assignment that students had the option of writing as a letter to me about their experience he wrote: "I no longer feel the need to be invisible. And I thank you for that."

  Over the next three Tuesdays, there will be more poems posted. My hope is that the work reaches a wider audience, in this case, an audience of teachers and students who might not pick-up a poetry magazine. Coming up next: Scarecrows, Maps, and Bee Sting Abortions!

   I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these pieces. "Poetry is a conversation with the world," Naomi Shihab Nye has stated. You come, too! Please pull your chair a little closer to the table. Everyone is welcome here.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

IN THE SHAPE OF A HUMAN BODY I AM VISITING THE EARTH (or a cat body) - READ THIS!

Watson recommends this poetry anthology! 

Sometimes a gift comes out of the universe by way of the Saturday morning mailbox. Today is such a day. This little book (which makes Watson, my tuxedo, look like a giant) is the anthology, IN THE SHAPE OF A HUMAN BODY I AM VISITING THE EARTH, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and published by McSweeney's. This is not just another anthology. This is the best anthology I have read in years because every poem will "grab you by the teeth" as the editors writing in the introduction.

The poems here were originally published in Poetry International, the beautiful journal published by San Diego State University (where Kaminsky is on faculty). I can name names here: Tracy K. Smith, Charles Simic, Seamus Heaney, Jericho Brown, Federico Garcia Lorca, Mahmoud Darwish, Eavan Boland, Carolyn Forche, Eric McHenry, Anna Swir, Malena Moorling, Jane Hirshfield and many others. Too many to name and really what are names?

Here is is the poem that counts; the poem that will make you feel like the top of your head has been taken off (thanks, Emily). Will make you happy that poetry exists in the world --- the reasons for poetry are all here --- all from poets from across continents and timelines.

I'll copy the title poem out just to lure you into finding yourself a copy. It's only $14 and a perfect size for traveling. Let me be clear --- this won't earn the poets inside a penny but it will give readers great joy! I feel as if I've discovered a poem that I will hold close all my life.


VISITING

In the shape of a human body
I am visiting the earth;
the trees visit
in the shape of trees.
Standing between the onions
and the dandilions
near the ailanthus and the bus stop,
I don't live more thoroughly
inside the mucilage of my own skull
than outside of it
and not more behind my eyes
than in what I can see with them.
I inhale whatever air
the grates breathe into me.
My arms and legs still work,
I can run if I have to
or sit motionless purposefully
until I am here and not here
the way death is present
in things that are alive
like salsa music
and the shrill laughter of the bride
as she leaves the wedding
or the bald child playing jacks
outside the wig shop.

       Malena Morling from the anthology:
IN THE SHAPE OF A HUMAN BODY I AM VISITING THE EARTH

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tomorrow, 7 pm at WordsWest -- Come see Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Me~




I'm still in disbelief that I will be reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil,  tomorrow night, Wednesday, April 18th. It seems impossible that after all the planning and organizing, the date will actually arrive. C and P Coffee Company is housed in a 1920's Craftsman and is the heart of our community. What better place to have a reading series? Come early to assure getting a seat --- then you can order your coffee, beer, or wine. See you soon!


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Special Interview with poet Cindy Veach - pre-event!

Cindy Veach reads at 7:00 pm at Elliott Bay Book Company, this Friday

I caught up with Cindy Veach and had the chance to ask her a few questions about her debut collection, Gloved Against Blood. If you want to learn about her work before the reading tomorrow night, here are her words on writing, research, and family secrets. See you tomorrow!


SR: Can you tell us about the different kinds of research you did for this book? Was it all book research or did you visit the Lowell Mills and other places you conjure so beautifully?

CV: I began my research with books and online sites. I waited several months to actually visit the Lowell National Park where the Lowell Mills are located. I wanted to have a solid base of information before engaging in that experience. Book research continued along with a second visit to the mills.  The two books that were most informative for me were, The Belles of New England, by William Moran and The Lowell Offering: Writings by Mill Women 1840-1945 edited by Benita Eisler.

SR     This book is full of family secrets --- from the workers in the mills up to more present day. How did you negotiate this within yourself?

CV: Great question! This did take some self-negotiation and it took time. Some poems, ultimately, were left out of the manuscript and I have no regrets about those decisions. I believe that those that survived serve a purpose – to preserve something of the details of lives so they are not completely lost.

SR.     Now that GLOVED AGAINST BLOOD is out in the world, has it changed how you see the work or how you see yourself as a poet?

CV: When I was deeply working on the manuscript it was difficult to see the whole. Now, that it is done and in the world, I see it from a different vantage point. One where I can see more of the inner connectedness of the poems and the progression. At the same time, I feel more distanced from it. And by that I mean it feels complete/done and I can move on.

SR.     I know this is an unfair question but if you had to choose a favorite poem from the book which would it be? Another way to look at this is --- which is your favorite poem of the moment and why?

C: My personal favorite is French Seams. This poem went through many revisions and originally was half the length it is now. When I eventually wrote the second half of the poem is when it became a poem.

SR.     Are you at work on a new book? Can you tell us something about it?

CV: I am working on a new book. Like Gloved Against Blood, it is also rooted in local history. In this case, the Salem Witch Trials. Salem, MA creates a great deal of cognitive dissonance for me. On the one hand there is the tragic history of the witch trials and the fact that 20 innocent individuals were executed while on the other hand there is the witch kitsch culture that drives the tourist the town depends on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

National Poetry Month: Expanding Existence with Aimee Nezhukumatathil at WordsWest Literary, April 18th


Open up your calendars on screen or on paper! Here are some poetry dates to hold.

I'm still in disbelief that I will be reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Wednesday night, April 18th, in less than a month. It seems impossible that after all the planning and organizing, the date will actually arrive. C and P Coffee Company is housed in a 1920's Craftsman and is the heart of our community. What better place to have a reading series?

Perhaps I can get back in the reading groove at 7:00 pm this Friday night, March 30th, when I read with Cindy Veach at Elliott Bay Book Company. Her debut collection, Gloved Against Blood is amazing in so many ways. Here is what I've written about its brilliance.

"For me, Gloved Against Blood holds the perfect image for these beautiful poems that struggle to push away received histories. From the immigrant mill girls in 19th century Lowell, Massachusetts to contemporary cafĂ© workers who sell espresso / fifteen ways, we need to protect ourselves against hard times—against the firm eye of the needle—against forces we cannot control no matter how hard we work to sew or mend. This is an extremely fine and forceful debut."

I am thrilled to be reading with both these marvelous poets on the precipice of National Poetry Month and then again, two weeks later. Seattle is indeed an international city of literature, we'd love to have you come visit, too.




Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Surprises of the Best Kind

wild birds enjoying a few coffee beans without harm from nets

      A few years ago I published a poem titled "Boketto" which appeared on the Academy of American Poetry site and led to some lovely emails from old friends as well as a few folks I didn't know. There's nothing better than when a stranger reaches out to tell me a poem that I wrote moved them. In fact, it may be the best reason to publish work that exists: a one to one call and response.

      Someone who wrote to me then has just emailed me again asking for advice on some new poems. These aren't just new poems as in just having been written, these are new poems in that actually writing poems is new to this person. How cool is that for a stranger to trust me with brand new work?

     This person contacted me because of one line in the poem, "Boketto." It's "we leaned/into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast." It turns out, the person who wrote to me is a coffee importer and roaster of bird friendly coffee!  This seems such a great example of the magical routes that poetry takes through the world.

  Another poetry surprise this month has been my amazing students at Highline College. Their po-jacks of "Again" by Jericho Brown, "The Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, and "The Applicant," by Sylvia Plath were just amazing. These are undergraduates who for the most part, had only written one other poem in their lives. Whatever the reason these three poems opened up deep passageways into their inner lives.

I know there were a few more positive surprises but I will hold to these two for now. Until next week!