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“So what lasts?” the speaker asks in the poem “El Anatsui.” This may be the central question of Susan Jackson’s new collection, In the River of Songs. Jackson is a poet dedicated to exploring the mysteries of what it means to be fully human in a world where love and loss, pain and joy are irrevocably nested together. These poems seem to answer that whatever does last is not easily defined—maybe only the intangible qualities of heart, perseverance, generosity of spirit, and moments when the poet is suddenly anchored in appreciation for “the ever-flowing fullness of the world.” Readers will be touched by the intimate beauty of the poems in this new volume.
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Susan Jackson is the author of Through a Gate of Trees (CavanKerry Press, 2007) and the chapbook All the Light in Between (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her writing has been published recently in Tiferet Journal, Lips, Paterson Literary Review, and Nimrod International Journal. She was awarded a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Residency Grants to the Vermont Studio Center and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a Pushcart nomination, and recognition from the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. During the summer, Jackson coleads a group in “Poetry as Spiritual Practice.” With four grown children and two granddaughters, she and her husband live in Teton County, Wyoming.
Susan Jackson’s poems are gifts to the reader’s heart and soul, expertly fashioned from language, memory, and spiritual insight. While not veering away from the challenges that arise in life—deaths and other losses—each poem ultimately arrives at grace. Their progression charts one woman’s journey on the river of her life, welcoming us into significant personal moments and bringing us into the wisdom of maintaining presence in the face of whatever arises. As a wise woman’s witness, In the River of Songs offers you a journey you will long remember and honor.
—Donna Baier Stein, author of The Silver Baron’s Wife and Founder/Publisher of Tiferet Journal
Susan Jackson’s latest collection, In the River of Songs, is redolent of love for family and the natural world. From “the quaking aspen . . . in the distance” to “the long call / of the ravens,” engaging with these poems is a spiritual exercise—one comes away from them as one might from meditation or prayer.
—Elliot Figman, author of Big Spring and Executive Director Emeritus of Poets & Writers, Inc.
With quiet intimacy, Jackson’s poems invite the reader into a contemplative space, a pause in the whirl of life. Through a lens of wonder, she captures the mystical in the ordinary, making altarpieces out of the sudden moment of seeing. There are flashes of wild joy, love songs, and poems of fierce precision.
—Raechel Bratnick, author of Awakening the Dreamer and The Likelihood of Dawn
For me, In the River of Songs is a collection of cleansing experiences like gentle rain on a parched garden. Everyday details illumine moments and offer surprises that hold and refresh the present. The poem “Perseid Meteor Showers” concludes with the lines “a dazzling gift / all because you came outside.” Reading these poems is coming outside to find a dazzling gift.
—Reverend Suzanne Love Harris, author of Lasting
Jackson’s new collection ignites the reader with a vibrancy that expands who you thought you were. These deeply moving poems invite you to a place beneath the words, fully alive with its own rhythm. She is the song, the artist, the mysterious, and the ordinary . . . life, death, and the veil in between.
—Reverend Margaret Smithers Koeniger
What If Every Poem Were a Prayer
The face of the river is also changing
after last night’s storm.
Skeletons of trees float downstream,
their trunks like bones bleached white
by weather as they let themselves be carried
in the lapping path of water
without a worry where the river comes from
or where it goes;
something in me rises to meet
this ever-flowing fullness of the world—
and what if every poem were a prayer,
I muse, looking up
just in time to see a hawk,
wide wings over the pines—
there, just above the brow of the hill.
Praise for the drops of rain after days of drought.
Praise from the thirsty plants, the green leaves
of the silver birch, the parched dry earth now singing
in mud. Even the earthworms deep in the soil churn
with delight. Crepe myrtle blossoms
like small cups collecting beads of water.
Everything from the dahlias to the cosmos,
to the Heavenly Blue morning glories
climbing the back fence, everything that grows
seems to be saying thank you.
We are not looking down to measure amounts.
We are raising our faces to the rain. We are letting
the children stomp in puddles even when they splash
everything from the tips of their red rain boots to the knees
of their worn jeans, and the grown-ups—we are cupping
our outstretched hands to feel the soft wet
and for once simply feeling happy.
In the River of Songs
Pub date – May 2022
Trade paper – 6 x 9″
Emerging Voices – Poetry
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