The Word Works
The Washington Prize
Paperback: 84 pages
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Advance praise for Zoom:
Zoom is a post-perspectival report on current conditions, written from the spot where the Anthropocene meets the obscene. It’s a bleak, funny, litany of non-viable positions –ground zero crumbling beneath flying feet. There are so many good sentences here I’m tempted to quote them: “Underestimate the risk or die trying.”
The way this book deploys the English language to reveal the music of deeper meaning is simply gorgeous. “In praise of miscommunication and her co-star, depending. Trying not to stare at the posterior pronation of their disregard.” Reading, I was thinking of G. Hill’s early prose poems, their rhetorical marvels. And, of G.C. Waldrep’s prose poems. How beautifully the emotional registers find their way into the speech of the prose poem-format: “The enemy grinning in your prismatic heart. Fingering the molecular furnace. Hot & bothered. Throbbing towards correspondence, the irrepressible hope of fit.”
Zoom is haunting, disturbing, harmonious, muscular. With razor-sharp precision, prodigious word-play, syntax that constantly upends and astounds, and a surprisingly sly sense of humor, the prose poems in this collection obsessively focus on what it means to be fully alive and aware in these complicated, anxiety-ridden times.
–Andrea Carter Brown, Word Works Washington Prize Series Editor
cover art by Michael Janis
Paperback: 80 pages
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THERE IS A WISE, GENTLE IRE — ANCIENT BUT not old — running through the brilliant prose poems of Susan Lewis’s Heisenberg’s Salon. This ire is embodied by a woman (maybe the poet, maybe not) who changes with each poem, and yet remains the same. In one poem, she wonders whether a unicorn of impossible radiance will show up at her picnic. She knows it won’t, but her annoyance lands, not on the unicorn, but on the wine: it falls a little short. In another, she admits that her life is all illusion, but “rather / than bemoan the shortcomings . . . she resolved to / cultivate its restorative potential: lingering and loitering, biding her / time, resting up for the thrill of the night.” Both poet and woman question the expectation of reality in every poem, but remain bent on subverting it any way they can. Perhaps by tweaking the laws of physics. The beauty of Heisenberg’s Salon is that anything is probable.
TINY STORIES, OR LARGE POEMS, SUSAN LEWIS’S WRITING features exacting, figurative frames, windows in which glimpses of oneself are prismy, apposed by some other real—allegory—sounded in language’s slanted order (ardor?—(yes)).
THE COMPRESSED COGNITIVE FIELDS OF HEISENBERG’S SALON ENACT paradoxes of nearness: the fundamental limits to the precision with which pairs—lovers, familiars, bodies, properties—can be known. Lewis’s poems explore the uncertainty principles that govern attempts to know the position and momentum of human couplings, inextricably caught in the flux of thought and circumstance. Language itself subsumes that flux—Lewis is keenly aware that her medium predetermines and enmeshes her speakers’ thoughts before they have the chance to clear their throats. Her measured sentences present gravitational fields of idiomatic speech—a process that torques and exposes the oddities of the vernaculars that surround us. Wry, bemused, cool to the touch, these poems know that language forms can never approximate “her equivocal heart,” yet they manage to find meaning and pathos even in its evacuation: “Many were the days she had nothing to say, or less.”
SUSAN LEWIS’S HEISENBERG’S SALON IS A TREAT TO READ. These poems carry a tension between surprise and predictability, an exquisite balance which opens new inroads into both form and meaning. In prose poems which waste not a word, Lewis is extremely adept at creating expectations that she gently, consistently, benevolently machinates against. Form perfectly fits content as these subtle poems explore subjectivity versus empirical reality, spirituality versus material commitment, time and mortality versus eternal life, the animate versus the inanimate (boulders, trees), and finally individual creativity and dreamfulness versus the constitution of god or utopia as our collective projections. Reading Heisenberg’s Salon makes us aware of a poet whose moral calm we need in an era when the divisions amongst us are being elaborated, rather than collapsed, for anti-humanistic ends. It takes a lot of courage to put together a collection like this.
Paperback: 104 pages
cover art by Michael Janis
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LIKE A CURIOUS ECHO RETURNED TO THE READER patiently perched at each poem’s mouth, This Visit is cavernous. It leads you deep. Into unexpected spaces, resonating and illuminated by Susan Lewis’ intuitive ear and playful elasticity of language. Look around and listen closely. You will find the world carved here to be less replica and more simulacra of the familiar surface above. Lewis returns to us the original primordial rhythms and rhymes engrained in our bones…but she does so slant. So that, whether you read this book aloud or silently to yourself, the voice that calls back to you from below is neither hers nor yours alone.
SUSAN LEWIS’S THIS VISIT IS A DISSONANT PASTICHE of many lost voices connecting, a series of lost letters that have found an intimate listener. Yet these lyrical and profoundly intelligent dissonances contain bodies, distances, the real presence of the material world, “your desire and your embedded thorn.” Only the “ungod” gives these spaces their form, their voice, their substance; after all, God is “watching like a prisoner” from the world of these poems, constantly struggling to take form, like Michelangelo’s slaves emerging from the half-hewn stone, or Duchamp’s nude descending a multitude of staircases in shimmering half lines and half steps and snatches of overheard lines. This is a poetry of “the flesh rolled and soothing, eyes nosing over lipped seam,” and this visitation yearns for a connection as deep and ephemeral as being touched.
SAM WITT, author of Everlasting Quail and Sunflower Brother
IN SUSAN LEWIS’S LATEST COLLECTION of poetry, This Visit, each poem becomes a complex plot of phrasing that doubles back with contradictory meanings and proceeds forward with dead-on accuracy. Lewis’s brilliant word play subverts language with wit and precision. While reading these poems, I feel as though I am wandering through landscapes that continue to change as Lewis’s powerful voice guides me through her terrain of wit and ideas—and she is in control. Her use of ambiguity gives multiple meanings to her poems with lines like this: “But (you say)/some of my best friends are—/to which I nod:/decay?” This is a cerebral collection of poems written with humor and detail; Lewis delights with sleight-of-hand mastery in each poem.
IN THE FISSURES AND GAPS of a malleable lexicon, Susan Lewis’s playful, punning, musical lyrics create spaces for a reader to explore. In her “mythic stickiness” edges are blurred in service to an “everlasting loop.” Her poems are oddly intimate, full of a wise skepticism and a quirky grace–perhaps more of a place to live in than to visit.
THE QUESTION ARISING is: do rest or do you reach? Are you a machine stroker or a poem stoker? Or maybe, do you both? These poems swerve in that place between choice and choicelessness, and call out to trouble the stasis.
How to be Another
Cervena Barva Press
Paperback: 81 pages
ISBN 978-0-991 0091-0-7
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CLIPPED, CUT, CAJOLING, the prose bits of Susan Lewis are pure poetry. When and whether she unravels the endless to and fro with an/other who never quite makes true contact, or provides procedural instructions on how to be some self, she never spins anything less than “the courage to tell us something new, no matter how frightening or untrue.” Her capsuled narratives cohere and dissolve with the piquant absurdity of the voices they refract, then send back out into the ether. This is the kind of entropy “we might as well learn to ride like the wind” to whatever full-stop it takes us, with fun and thanks punctuating our language-voyage.
Susan Lewis poses questions that are sine waves amid the urban ruckus of unsweetened yet unnatural nouns. She nuzzles the vibrato context that her poems would recast. Poetic prophecy thrives amid a balance between selected, anchored logic and prevailing, accurate illogic in the midst. There is a delicious sense of understatement in these poems that drive toward the surprise end of the spectrum that diverts from expectation. Along this welcome string of mysteries, we are perpetually challenged to invent new steps.
Waking headlong transcriptions of what poetry’s dream can do that no other form of writing can: sing condensed quicksilver improvisations that are any smart feeling reader’s sought after letters to the Other you too can learn to become from out a “most entertaining cave.” Read these poems and be right back in the new present unfurling moment of language’s immediacy—each poem is a successful risk-taking trip flying in and out of Susan Lewis’ brilliancy. Rx: read this book.
Susan Lewis’ poems in How to be Another offer often ironic, always eloquent testament to the agonies of relationships in general and couples in particular. Wielding incisive metaphors like a scalpel, she cuts through social poses and masks to the messy failures and disappointments that lurk underneath the surface of our all too human interactions. Her poetry is compassionate enough to capture our desire to connect with each other and wise enough to recognize our repeated and heartbreaking failure to do so.
State of the Union
Spuyten Duvvil Press
Paperback: 48 pages
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WORDPLAYS & PLAYFULL WORDS. A humor throughout but serious, also. “This is not a movie / but now & then it feels like one…” A poem enters stage right, philosophizes, comments, does stand-up, all at the same time, then exits, stage left. Reappears as itself, redressed, or as someone else, from another direction, or perhaps the same, returns to the format though with changed ratios. The appearances, the poems, are incremental, synergistic. Susan Lewis’s State of the Union addresses, in a series of singular poetic soliloquies, both the state of nature & the natural state of life.
Susan Lewis’ prose poems take off at a frenetic pace, dashing old ideas of order and replacing them with a rush of wickedly witty puns, jolts, jabs, and reversals of colloquial speech. It’s as if she’s foraging for and forging a new language to speak about “this overload of blurred identities” living in an age where “there is not enough time for these times.” At the center of this high-speed chase between public and private, self and other, Lewis is a reckless realist determined to stand her shifting ground in order to reach us.
Full of laughter, a razor sharp eye, and a barrage of surprises, Susan Lewis’s State of the Union propels us through multiple registers of relation, never slackening or losing focus in her furious push toward a love poem worthy of a “subject which has expired for lack of correct change.” From complexity which leads “to one wandering eye & a convoluted appetite,” to simplicity which leads to “albinism & and continuous irrepressible hum,” Lewis’s impeccable attention to the “song of the illusive spheres” will leave you stunned and in stitches. It is an absolutely (disturbing) delight.
At Times Your Lines
Argotist eBooks 2012
Available as a free ebook here.
THE PROSE POEMS IN AT TIMES YOUR LINES muster compression and elision, irony and parable in the pursuit of the necessary impossible; tracing life and fault-lines between the lived and the created, the recognizable and the strange.
Winner of the 2009 Cervena Barva Press Poetry Contest
Cervena Barva Press
Paperback: 34 pages
COLD ONTOLOGY AND NORMATIVE LONGING have met their antidote in these derivations of bright oughts from the imperfect is – progressions as hopeful as they are rigorous. Welcome to the unknowable nursery of tomorrow’s big payoff, the source of all tantalizing hypotheticals. Here even the schism between practitioners and their actions is not mere disconnect, it’s the animating principle that gives us room to evolve. Welcome to Susan Lewis’ genesis in the retort, lush with secret memes of closed door intimacy.
Commodity Fetishism is at once a verbal collage of the mental rigamarole of daily living and a compendium of irony and sentiment. These poems are terse yet opaque, jokey yet unapologetically consequential. This chapbook is off-beat, perfectly tuned, and compulsively readable.
Finishing Line Press
I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE GENEROUS BEAUTY of this collection. Language informs the remarkable poems it contains as much as the sensuous truths that attend the memory of experience. Because of this, and the lyrical skill that gracefully unites them, they are possessed of a startling and passionate clarity.
Animal Husbandry is an accomplished set of playful and bracing poems. The temperature rises with feverish melodic articulations of ironies and transpositions. Emoticons express passion with rare pleasure, folded into the practice of breeding, this time with lines of verse.“Dots dance on paper,/molecules bump, so listen” to these coy, funny and haunting poems.
Animal Husbandry is a playful and rigorous rediscovery of poetry’s ability to make linguistic conceptual abstraction into sensory experience, and vice versa. It invites readers to share not only the intellection but also the affective energies of its sung queries about how the “all this too much we know now” suffuses our erotic, political, and parental lives. These poems orchestrate tone, melody, rhythm, and syntax to bring across the urgency of their nuanced questioning about matters stretching from our origin as a species to all too recent political catastrophes. With their gift for formal and stylistic compression, for condensation laced with startling shifts of speed and sound, these poems transform the necessary limitations of the coin of the realm into the making of virtuoso turns on a dime.
Walkers in the City
Rain Taxi Books
Edited by Dennis Barone
An anthology of contemporary poetry about urban ambling in cities large and small, here and abroad, real and imagined.
Featuring new poems by Susan Lewis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sheila E. Murphy, Maureen Owen, Clare Rossini, Jerome Sala, and more.
They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing
Black Lawrence Press
Edited by Simone Muench and Dean Rader
Featuring work by Susan Lewis & Mary Kasimor, Brian Clements, Denise Duhamel, Carol Guess, Lyn Hejinian, Megan Kaminsky, Maureen Seaton, GC Waldrep, and many more.
Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace
Glass Lyre Press
Edited by Diane Frank, Lois P. Jones, Ami Kaye, Rustin Larson, Gloria Mindock & Melissa Studdard
Profits to benefit the Red Cross
Featuring poetry by Susan Lewis, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, Kaveh Akbar, Amy King, Kazim Ali, Yehuda Amichai, Gregory Pardlo, and many more.
Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance
50% of proceeds go to Planned Parenthood
Featuring poetry by Susan Lewis, Eileen Myles, Nathaniel Mackey, Anne Waldman, Margaret Randall, Forrest Gander, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Brenda Hillman, Bob Holman, Pierre Joris, Douglas Kearney, Evie Shockley, Terese Svoboda, Michael Boughn, Norma Cole, Dante DiStefano, David Giannini, Eileen Tabios, Fady Joudah, Joe Pan, Anis Shivani, Tod Thilleman, Lewis Warsh, & more.
Urgent Bards: An Urbantgarde Poetry Anthology
Edited by Michael Whalen
Featuring poetry by Susan Lewis, Ed Go, melissa christine goodrum, and Billy Cancel.
From the introduction:
Billy Cancel, Ed Go, melissa christine goodrum and Susan Lewis are four of my favorite contemporary poets, both in their written work and also as literary performers, and they’ve contributed some incredible poems to this anthology. Over and over again while reading these poems I get the same sort of electric jolt, the same feeling of surprise and discovery. From the dense language play of Billy Cancel’s work to the fractured blues/jazz-steeped lyricism of melissa goodrum’s to Ed Go’s tweaked narratives and the constantly shifting lines of Susan Lewis’ prose poems, this is work that is driven by a sense of linguistic play and experimentation, a desire to upend expectations of how language typically is used in surprising, often unsettling, ways. Michael Whalen. Spring 2016 Brooklyn, New York.
Devouring the Green
Jaded Ibis Press
Edited by Sam Witt
The inspiration for Devouring the Green anthology arose from the editor’s and publisher’s own investigations into new technologies and ecological disaster as it relates to the art of language. We invited a diversity of writers to submit poems addressing the ecological, technical and spiritual.
Jaded Ibis Press searches for provocative poetry that maintains a thread to the past while exploring concerns related to human sentience in an increasingly non-sentient world. To this end, Devouring the Green anthology of cyborg/eco-poetry questions the increasingly porous border between the world of machines and the world of nature.
The OR Panthology: Ocellus Reseau
Other Rooms Press
Edited by Melissa Christine Goodrum
Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction, Volume 2
Fast Forward Press
Out of Print