Sunday, November 29, 2015



MEMOS by Susan Terris
(Omnidawn, Richmond, CA, 2015)


Double-Edged by Susan Terris
(Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2009)

I like the weight, the sense, of these poems in Susan Terris’ MEMOS. They are spare, each poem fitting on a 5.5” x 7” page and ranging in length from only two to six couplets each.  But the lengths, in addition to manifesting well the concept as presented by the book title, serve to emphasize the lurking zingers that finally come out in the last lines.  For instance, observe how this poem swerves before its sharp conclusion:

Memo To The Man Who Gave Me His Mother’s Wedding Ring

by mistake     after all the times     like Emma Bovary
I’d begged for one     there in the bottom of

the suede pouch with the heishi     gift for my birthday
that gold ring with an arc of rose-cut diamonds

a thirties kind of piece     older than you think     maybe
your mother’s mother’s and yet     for five months

mine     too small for my gingers though     not mine after all
each stone sharp enough to cut glass

And what I’m calling zingers zing instead of sing because of their singe. But what’s lovely about this collection, too, is the variety of the zingers.  This one is powerful for so being in the world, and evoking so much with its ending:

Memo To The Homeless Woman By The Sutter Stockton Garage

the cardboard sign says     I’m hungry     says     AIDS
stained hoodie     market cart and pooch with pointed ears

why you instead of me     who gave me Rosie to ride
and you only old tickets torn in half

I say     stop     I want to get off     while you keep
trying to get on     around and around     I try not to eye

you     sitting cross-legged     head bowed     I throw
money     can’t bear the month-old baby in your lap

There’s also tons of humor—for example, from “Memo To My House Plants” (which I much appreciated given my brown thumb):

blossom for your keep before others come by

rooting for a home     grow     or the recycle truck
will snap its maw and chew you to compost

and this other pungent example

Memo to Self

how could you have forgotten Heathcliff     but you
have     after decades of ache and lust     if he

were to gallop off the moors now     you’d probably bitch
he needs more than a shower and a shave

Ultimately, the variety of characters addressed by the memos as displayed by the titles which all begin “Memo To…”—here’s the first page of the Table of Contents

—evince a life well-observed and considered, which is to say, with this collection, Terris acquitted well her job as a poet.


Susan Terris acquitted well her job as a poet, I say above, but then again, such would be the reward of experience as MEMOS is hardly Terris' first rodeo.  She has several books, and the "zing" and "singe" I felt from poems in MEMOS remind me of an earlier chapbook, Double-Edged.  As evoked by the title, the poems offer instances of edgy dualities or sharp-edged facets of a single matter. For example:


Day by day,
first coupled inward,
then looking outward
where nature
might be
where honed edges
grow dull
and memory,
a fresh cut,
if held too tight.

Her poems bear the knowledge of life experience in addition to imagination (not to say that these poems necessarily reflect the poet's biographical experience).  It's what can cause that song to zing.  Here's another example:

Getting out of Dodge

Your detachment, he says, is extraordinary.
He’s speaking as I’m cooking—
salmon, broccoli, potatoes.
He’s sick, he says, but, still, I—
heartless—am leaving town
I should stay to plump pillows, shave
him, make one more midday shake
But, six guns blazing if need be,
I am getting out.
                                    Sometimes, because
Space is curved, you go east to come west.
And sometimes, turning your back is

The only way to save love

Terris shows herself a master at writing poems as sagacious nuggets.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary.  Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field.  Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form.  A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web.  More information at 

1 comment:

  1. Susan wrote a new lovely poem in response: