A year ago I headed east to give some readings during National Poetry Month in Onslow County and the Wilmington area. In Jacksonville I met a delightful woman named Suzanne Surles, who told me that she wrote poetry. A few months ago she sent me several of her poems, along with clippings and photocopies of her in various stages of her fascinating life. Born in Cambodia of French-VietNamese parentage, she and her family were interred in a prison camp by the Japanese during World War II. After being released, she traveled to France, where she lived for a time perfecting her French. She has lived in England and Scotland, too, before moving to the United States. She is fluent in several languages and for years taught French in the Jacksonville school system. She's also a passionate cook; recipes were included with her packet of poems. A woman after my own heart. Here we are below in the Onslow County Public Library, after my reading.
Photographs of the young Suzanne at age 15, the fashionable young woman in Paris, the French teacher, and today's Suzanne lounging at home.
And a page from the Jacksonville newspaper in 1986.
Because writing poetry gave Suzanne emotional realease, (as well as pleasure) during her journeys, I had an image of her carrying pages of poems tucked inside handbags, suitcases, and pockets! To retain that image, I decided to present her work on the pages she sent me, photographing them on my dining room table. Here they are, a few wrinkles and shadows notwithstanding. The last poem, "Friends," was written in Phnom-Penh in 1959.
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