– and to the staff, Lee, Jane, Stephen and all – our allies in poetry. It is a pleasure to be here to celebrate as Marsh Hawk Press finishes its twelfth year with more than 70 books. of poetry in print.
I am very happy to be able to introduce the award-winning poet from San Francisco. California, Susan Terris. She has six full-length books of poetry, twelve chapbooks, three artists’ books, more prizes and awards than can be listed here, and she has a career as an editor and teacher of writing as well. Marsh Hawk published her collection, Natural Defenses, in 2004 and this year Ghost of Yesterday, her new and selected poems, from which she will be reading this evening.
I want to say a few words about these poems: their titles, themes and style, interrelated of course. Susan Terris has a gift for titles that are unassuming, provocative, drawing one into the book or the poem, for example, Curved Space and The Homelessness of Self. The title of this new collection, Ghost of Yesterday, also evokes recognition in ourselves. Yes, of course, we assent, yesterday is a ghost that haunts our inner landscapes. We are similarly alerted by The title of Terris’s previous Marsh Hawk book, Natural Defenses. Its title poem begins: “I never mastered the art/ of protection,” and we recall those times we didn’t defend ourselves when we should have.
The subtly simple language of the titles continues in the texts where the direct imagistic approach and condensery – to use a Lorine Niedecker expression -- gives equal word-power to dreams and everyday experience – “the natural object is always the adequate symbol,” said Ezra Pound. Thus for Terris the stink of a boxcar in a Holocaust museum is a present reality that brings to life those dead “begging for refuge, those who would not have been spared,/my children, my sister’s Mischling children.”
The consciousness of linguistic word-power characterizes the new poems, written in pairs with titles that use and reverse common expressions: “Push & Pull,” “Pull & Push,” “Cock & Bull,” “Bull & Cock,” “Double or Nothing,” “Nothing or Double” that open up with perceptive wit, poignancy and irony the permutation of family relationships, the multiple ghosts of the past that, shimmering and vital, live today in a new, human concrete life.
I like these poems so much. Let’s hear them. Please welcome Susan Terris.