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Heisenberg's Salon reviewed at The Best American Poetry Blog

 

Braided Interior: Dante Di Stefano Reviews Heisenberg's Salon by Susan Lewis

IndexHeisenberg’s Salon
Susan Lewis
BlazeVox Books, 2017

Susan Lewis’s new collection of prose poems engages the complex routines and the constantly shifting contours of daily life in the twenty-first century with great humor, terror, anger, and insight. Like Kafka, like Borges, Lewis explores the uncertainties that underwrite a life, and that linger in the margins of the page; from such uncertainties, and from the chaos embroidered into the antimacassars of the quotidian, Lewis’s prose poems present themselves as an endless gallery of rooms wherein one might dwell on the raging absurdities and the gentle profundities of existence. In these poems, Lewis introduces a man overwhelmed by the complexity of most things, refugees from the native urban clatter, a god of guilt trying to sharpen the curvatures of space-time, a girl who knows her waking life is an illusion, figures sidling into their lives like shy crabs, motivations stunted, discourses un-tongued, the logic of the stutter-step and the sucker punch, the language of bureaucracy colliding with medusa-headed vernaculars and scientific lexicons. Lewis’s ultimate subject, however, is the protean, indeterminate, baffling conundrum of the self, the mystery and multiplicity of our own individual discrete interior worlds.

For Susan Lewis, the prose poem provides a frame within which passionate inwardness and exteriority might overlap, exchange places, negate each other, and continue their distinct pinprick shinings. These poems take form in the interstices of desire, “caught between reciprocity & the cutting edge,” providing glimpses of a “braided interior, veiled though it remained by a haze of evasion.”

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Susan Lewis​'s Heisenberg’s Salon reviewed at The Friday Influence

 

lewis hs

review by José Angel Araguz

Drawing inspiration from German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which “states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa,” Susan Lewis’ latest collection, Heisenberg’s Salon (BlazeVOX [books]), presents a prose poem collection that evokes the form’s surrealist traditions while expanding on its logic-making means.

One can see this idea of position and momentum reformulated in poetic terms in these lines from the title poem:

Every time she turned her back, the apartment rearranged itself. Each version created a home for another way of life.

From there, the reader follows the main character adapting to her constantly rearranging apartment, curling up and reading Victorian fiction when she “[discovers] the couch under the picture window,” and setting the next meal when “the dining table was there instead.” In a similar manner, the reader of this collection adapts to each poem’s engagement with and rearrangement of familiar linguistic territory. The aptly named “Indeterminacy” is a good example of adapting to rearrangement:

Indeterminacy

It was time for something, although she could not for the life of her imagine what. So she assumed her post on the stoop & waited for the future to declare itself. A tattered bird of dubious provenance landed on the banister & inspected her with his ancient gaze. She exhaled with emphasis, but otherwise managed to keep her preconceptions to herself. The old fellow cocked his head & screeched. Terrific, she said. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? Terrific, he squawked. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? I get it, she said, bravely extending her arm. I get it, he echoed, latching on with admirable decision. It was the last conversation they ever had.

Here, the first half of the poem positions two characters in places of waiting. There is a push and pull between interiority and meaning at work; because “she could not for the life of her imagine what” it was time for (keyword here being imagine, an act of interiority), she is forced to look outside herself. Thus positioned, the conversation that takes place in the second half of the poem works as momentum, giving the scene the urgency of question and response. The phrasing of a “tattered bird” also leaves things ambiguous; one can envision a parrot playing out the conversation that follows, merely echoing the other character. And yet, the choice to not be specific about the kind of bird it is leaves room for the fantastical. From this uncertainty, the imagining the other character was incapable of on her own becomes an outer moment of imagination via this “conversation” with the bird.

This transformation via uncertainty plays out for the reader much like the conversation plays out for the characters, strictly in the moment, in the rush as the pieces of the poem come together. There is a thrill in this kind of poetry that speaks of a sensibility awake to the materials at the core a poem, how to get the “tattered bird” of familiar language to say something new. As plot requires conflict, these poems point to lyricism as its pulse.

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in Sundress




Review of This Visit by Susan Lewis
Buffalo: BlazeVOX Books, 2014. 104 pp. $16.00, paper.


I got some new reading glasses and I hate them. I don't just see with them; I concentrate a little too much on the act of seeing. There is no doubt I see better with the glasses, but they're fraught for me with notions of age and deterioration and beauty as a lessened priority. 

I broke them in on a very worthy read, though—the poetry collection The Visit, by Susan Lewis. This is her eighth book, and it shows, glasses or no, and I tried it both ways. My first time through, I used my laser glasses-focus and really scrutinized the work. The poems had complicated geographies. They circled back on themselves; some lines were spurs or fragments, and some were roundabouts, hard to steer out of. 

I think I preferred my second reading, the sans-glasses reading, when I softened my gaze and just went along where Lewis pointed. Lewis approaches her reader in an intuitive, collaborative way, and once I accepted my role as co-creator of the work, I found the experience vivid and energizing. Consider this snippet from the title poem of the book: 

On the wall with no writing
through the dark glass

(floor littered with doll heads)
the grenade of your despair

plus sleep, that sweet rehearsal
(fingertips in love)

wistful bones withering,
winding down—

Reading lines like these is somewhat like viewing a scene dimly while someone with keener vision or a more advantageous viewpoint offers a description. When I allowed myself, I felt it deep inside my flesh, those "fingertips in love" and the "wistful bones withering." This passage, by the way, is the end of the section, and yes, it trails off, and yes, it ends with a dash, interrupted. 

In reading the collection, it is helpful to remember its basic conceit: This Visit, the title, seems to refer to this visit to Earth—this incarnation, this life among many we will experience. The voice in the poems is wise; it seems to have been here before, to have racked up some special insight. The work here is intelligent. 

It is also intellectually demanding. For one thing, it is allusive, including quotes from The Waste Land and many other works, so that the reader is always on the lookout for another layer, for a lining. It is also discursive, with a mere hint of an argument running through out, with a thread showing here, and here. I guess I'm describing the book as a well-made jacket, supple and perfectly constructed, but it's also something more ethereal than that—like a jacket constructed of still-beating wings. 

Speaking of construction, the collection is structured very deliberately into four sections, the first of poems titled "My Life in..." ("...Dogs," "...Microbes," "...Fresh Starts"), and the second of epistolary poems ("Dear Tomorrow," "Dear Random Object," "Dear Crutch"). The third and fourth sections are more open, and I found the third section, containing the title poem, most accessible in terms of Lewis' project, and most rewarding to me as a reader. But I did admire the strategy here, especially that of beginning with a glimpse at all the different kinds of lives. 

A favorite in the first section is "Dear Dear," with a title signaling the sort of playfulness I came to expect in the collection. It's a poem, like many others here, that rewards out-loud reading, as in these final lines:

Lean, you'll
lessen

in the cool glower
of repair

at once ought
& naught—

(hurry up please,
it's time)

Lewis' wordplay is delectable and subtle. I enjoy the pairing of "lean and "lessen," the barest suggestion of rhyme in "glower" and "repair," and the T.S. Eliot reference at the end. There's a lot to chew on, and the worrisome, bespectacled me, taking my first read-through, almost missed the pleasure for the puzzle. 

At the end of the day, poems aren't puzzles, although some reward a picking apart and a deep consideration. Lewis's certainly do—but they also offer drive-by pleasures, a sonic lushness and the occasional thrill of recognition. I'm tempted to find a wholly new way of seeing—opera glasses? microscope? monocle?—and take on The Visit again. 

You can purchase The Visit here





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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in The Daily Art Source

 
Hurray and congrats to Susan Lewis​ Her fine book was reviewed in The Daily Art Source!! Hurray!!


This Visit

When I first opened this book I saw one line, it jumped out to me. It's from the poem, This Visit, "the grenade of your despair." Later in the poem Ms Lewis writes, "Impassive as viscera exhumed." This speaks volumes to the human condition, the way in which we suffer and the way we dwell in regret and shame. But this is my opinion you must understand, not the views of Ms Lewis.

Hardly ever do you pick up a book of poetry that quickly satisfies your curiosity the way that a book by Susan Lewis will. By writing in brief poetic surges its easy to take them and let each one soak in individually. These lines are very satisfying. Take for instance the poem, "Like Leaves." You will find these two lines,

Cringing,
in a dry wind

You might hear these words in a passing conversation, a story being told. But no, these words are in a very fine poem. Any way you dissect, read or take in the work from This Visit by Susan Lewis you're going to fine something for you and to share.

Chris Mansel

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

 Susan Lewis holds a lovely command of rhythm, sound, and the weird possibilities that enter our relationships and life events. Whether we are reading her prose poems, like “This is Not a Movie” or “Dig,” or we are admiring the line breaks and white space of her linear poems in This Visit, we are always thinking about our connection to the narrator and the imposed distance from everyone, and everything, else, reflecting that same isolation
Susan Lewis_This Visitwe may observe when moving through our own lives and being aware of our impact on others, and their impact on us. I found these poems to be wildly interesting and thought-provoking, and they have stayed with me for weeks since I closed these three books and left them on my desk until I could review them. Sometimes a writer will do something in their work that gets a tight hold on me, and Lewis’s ability to surprise me through the narrator’s reactions to average goings-on (the digging, the hunter’s gear) has such a tight hold on me, and I don’t want it to let go. These images are so vivid and, cliché or not, leap off of the page and challenge my perceptions. Whether you are struggling like I was to find time to read and enjoy, or if you are simply looking for the next book to buy for your shelves, get your shovels and travel gear ready, and look Susan Lewis up. I am so happy to say that I picked such an excellent writer to turn to for my first day back to reading and reviewing books, and I’m sure, with not the slightest sliver of doubt in my mind, that you’ll enjoy her work, too, and become haunted by it. 








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