I’m a picky bugger when it comes to poetry: there’s no point beating about the bush. It either moves me with the force of a storm, or I’m left largely cold. It only now occurs to me that this may not make for objective reviews, but if I’m up front now, it makes stuff a lot easier going forward. As I sat last night, deciding this would be the moment to consider other people’s output in my own words, I knew what it was that prompted the decision: Susan read this week at an Open Mic I was also a part of. The piece that made me want to buy her collection also taught me something I didn’t know. Go read about Lithopedion like I did, and be amazed.
Performance, however it transpires, needs to move something within those who watch if it is to be successful. Susan’s performance in the Open Mic was part of a pretty transformative evening for me overall, and having now had time to properly absorb her pamphlet from Selcouth Station it’s apparent that that brief moment of insight [Stone Babies] was a pretty good indicator of this collection’s potency. There’s wanting weaved within these poems, acknowledgement of emotional depth and strength [The Dolls’ House] with a considered splash of genuine wonder [Owl]. There is so much to lose yourself within here, to consider in the sphere of your own experience. With that in mind, [Hope] is the stand-out poem for me in this selection.
The other benefit of making time to see poets read their work is the insight it gives you as to how individual craft is approached and honed. Susan’s depth of field and shifts in focus transform photographic pieces into complex, three-dimensional structures with hidden depths, which make you wonder exactly where the words will take you if you’re brave enough to follow them. I want to come back to [Magpie Eggs (Two for Joy)] and understand the relationship Susan creates between herself and nature, to work out how that might help me better manipulate my own words to the same end.
In the end, as a poet, I reckon you need to learn something from every poet you read, because every day should be a school day, regardless of your ability. Susan’s taught me to be less afraid of the fantastical, of spinning a thought beyond my eyeline or just out of reach. I’m quite a practical poet, when all is said and done, and for a while poems like this made me wonder how it was possible to imagine such things, that clearly can’t be real… except, in Susan’s hands, they are. The fear that’s here is signposted too, with confidence and belief, and I know what is possible when you can harness that power to do your own bidding. Add some education along the way, and a new direction appears.
Buy this pamphlet, and you will not be disappointed.