…ABOUT SUSAN TERRIS:
Susan Terris’ DREAM FRAGMENTS made me think of classics such as Platero and I or Diary of a Madman, wherein the blizzard of fragments woos us in, creating a high-speed journey of the mind; we are so enthralled by this journey that we don’t even notice how or when our heart is broken. What is it? A collection of prose poems? A book of days of a relationship? Snapshots of a marriage? A film-script in verse? Whatever the form, it creates the momentum that’s exactly right to depict the chase of memory, the fever of a romance. What is it? Book of soul mates, Terris suggests, and quickly corrects herself: a comedy of “sole mate, or soul meat.” And where are we? We are in front of two people, on horseback riding across moors, in kayaks, at a hat factory, dancing at the Big Sur river, laughing at Scrabble board. We’re in the presence two people “buckled into life jackets” even though they are nowhere near water. But, wait, what is it? It is a dream. “I am in bed,” the author tells us, “behind me is a pillow. In the best of all possible worlds, you are on the other side of that pillow.” Indeed. It is an elegy. It is a book to live with. Bravo.
Susan Terris is a poet of tensile, particular language and fearless investigation. In this far-reaching book, Terris's gifts of superb observation and word-craft turn in multiple directions—into the myths, stories and realities of childhood; into the myths, stories and rendered lives of figures from science, history, and the arts; into the myths, stories, and (sur)realities of personal experience. This book holds the manyness of selves, both intimate and enlarging; it is also a book of connection, world witness, self-witness, and imaginative expansion.
In Susan Terris’ book of pairings, the ordinary and marvelous often entwine. Adolescent boys and girls are captured in poems both startling and empathetic, as in the photographs of Sally Mann. Women, some fictional and some flesh (Lady Macbeth, Sally Hemings and Virginia Woolf among them), voice wisdoms born of isolation and suffering. Terris releases “several selves”—each a “woman who is not me,” but who, in her unmasking, mirrors a darkly animating and “sin-steeped” aspect of personality. Bestiality, cross-dressing and murder course through this book, but the poems are less sensational than fully alive, allusive, and gripping. “I stand with mouth open,” Terris writes, as she unflinchingly depicts those who are “coupled” and the need for consolation that compels them toward and away from each other. Familiar Tense is a tour de force, impressive in its candor and its craft.
GHOST OF YESTERDAY: NEW & SELECTED POEMS
Susan Terris’s new and selected poems is described best in the surprising way its images align as proofs of story with and against voice. Sometimes the voice is made missile with the oddest lyric arc and target. These are strongly meditative poems. This is a wonderful book.
There seems to be no limit to the range of experience and empathy in the far-reaching poems of Susan Terris. Out of a life passionately lived and remembered, she has constructed a bold map for survival and self-understanding. Her wisdom, dazzle of language, imaginative exploration of time and nature, and amazing appetite for risk and "dark surprise."
David St. John:
Susan Terris's poetry is exquisite and extraordinary. Her poems exhibit an intellectual verve and a linguistic brilliance that are remarkable. There are fewpoets who can so deftly orchestrate the dramatic dilemmas of the daily with the profound wisdoms of the larger world.
Susan Terris teases out the terror of the everyday, the elegies for all our lost selves. She is a true original, a remarkable, remarkable poet.
As the whorls of a fingerprint mark a singular identity, so with the poems of Susan Terris, whose twisting, whirling lines trace the dissolving trail of a restless self, obsessed, unmoored, “lines of uncertainty arrowing off in all directions.” Hers is a stinging insight, a high energy, diamond-hard compression; a mind unsatisfied, meteoric, myth-seeking, voicing our contemporary “age of un-innocence,” unable to believe in what it needs.
These poems are our fondest human wishes and hopes given voice. They report the world’s abundance and richness even amid loss and pain.