A Poet At Your Table: Susan Rich

Susan Rich has been so wonderful sharing each of the poets who are part of A Poet At Your Table, which is a program in Washington State that connects book groups with poets.

Here are the poets of A Poet At Your Table, many she's already featured:

Elizabeth Austen

Sheila Bender

Kelly Davio

Kathleen Flenniken

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Kate Lebo

Annette Spaulding-Convy

Katharine Whitcomb

me (Kelli Russell Agodon)

Now it's time to feature her!

Susan has been a good friend of mine since we met on a fall Seattle day at Elliott Bay Books' cafe.  We had both been part of a Poets for Peace event after the September 11th attacks and connected afterwards.  She remembers I was in a short khaki trench coat.  I remember feeling thankful to spend some time with another poet, as at the time, I was the mom of a one-year-old.

I fell in love with her first book, The Cartographer's Tongue.  And since then, all of poems.

We now both have writing studios I like to think connect magically across the water that divides us.
Her studio is House of Sky.  Mine of House of Sea.

Susan loves cats, art, good poetry, and writing dates.

She's won a trophy (yes, a crystal trophy from PEN!) for her first book and a gold sticker from the Washington State Book Awards for her third book, The Alchemist's Kitchen.

Her next book has the fabulous title, Cloud Pharmacy, and will be out in February of 2014.

If you're in the Seattle area and would like Susan to visit your book group and talk about The Alchemist's Kitchen  she would love to join you.

Here's the more formal details about Susan along with a poem:

Susan Rich

Susan Rich is the author of The Alchemist’s Kitchen, which was a Finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award. She has received awards from The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Individual poems appear in the Antioch Review,  Harvard Review, Poetry Ireland, and the Southern Review. She is co-editor of the anthology, The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Crossing Borders published by McSweeney’s. Susan lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

Praise for The Alchemist’s Kitchen from Carolyn Forche:

From The Alchemist’s Kitchen spills an abundance of the world’s fruits, herbs and pastries, gestures of hospitality and regard, for Susan Rich is a poet who writes in the midst of things, and out of a searing awareness of loss and obliviousness to loss, desire and its absence, what it means to be spiritually awake, to behold human life in all its possibility, pathos and transience and yet say yes.  

—Carolyn Forché

Here’s a poem from The Alchemist’s Kitchen: 


A summer wind clicks through the room
plastic curtains ecstatic as castanets.

Standing outside the rim of the body

you inhabit other lives –
Russian horses and red pigeon feathers –

weathered to beach glass, to scrim.

And this afternoon, as other Jews before,
you call out green syllables

 nearly sing them:

incantation of salt air, ripened plum.

Anna Akhmatova wanders the halls
offering peppermints with dented spoons –

Under a different house of sky …
Praise humans that blunder us
into the great unknowing –

translate sea to transalpine
an epic fable to jazz-filled tulip field.

Reviews of The Alchemist’s Kitchen

In the California Journal of Poetics http://www.californiapoetics.org/reviews/2090/review-of-the-alchemist%E2%80%99s-kitchen-by-susan-rich
In Rattle  http://www.rattle.com/poetry/2011/04/the-alchemists-kitchen-by-susan-rich/

More information about A Poet at your Table can be found on Facebook or on Susan's page:  http://poet.susanrich.net/for-book-groups/

~ Kells

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