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Sunday, July 12, 2009

SUSAN KIRBY-SMITH


(Susan, with coffee, in Florence, Italy)

I found a promising, what we older writers like to call "emerging," young poet last week. One who will without a doubt become one of the writers we North Carolinians can point to with pride. Turns out I knew her already as the daughter of my friend Tom Kirby-Smith, who taught for years at UNC-Greensboro and is himself a fine poet. I knew that he and his wife Noel Callow, also a poet and UNC-G MFA alumna, had a daughter the same age as ours named Susan, that she had attended Oberlin College, where our daughter spent her first year, but beyond that, I hadn't a clue as to what Susan had been doing over the past decade or so.

Well, I found her, or rather she found me, through a comment she left on Rhett Iseman Trull's "Poet of the Week" post. I tracked her down through her online e-zine, Unmoveable Feast, and emailed her, asking to see some of her work. She responded with a poem I liked a lot, and when I asked if she'd let me use it here, she agreed. After you read Susan's poem, go to www.unmoveablefeast.com and look around. There's plenty to enjoy, so take your time.

Susans says, "Right now I am living in Baton Rouge and completing an MFA at LSU. I met Rhett at a conference and then helped her with Cave Wall for a few issues.

My husband and I are thinking of moving back to North Carolina in a year and I know I'll want to continue to get to know literary communities here. Although I am to try out teaching again this year I have been doing editorial work (The Southern Review) and often daydream about being able to have another editorial job at one of the many fine presses around NC.

Here is a poem-like composition that's more or less about writing poetry."



Composed

A girl, a woman really, sits inside staring--
for hours in front of a blank, blank screen
and, eventually, these poems appear.

But she’s not exactly sure they’re poems
Aren’t poems supposed to have images?

Like the girl sitting, on the dirty gray couch,
her face tense as the screen fills with words,
but how mundane they are
and how ordinary the image is—

Can’t she put in something exciting?
Something like a red caterpillar?

The thing now crawls with its hundreds of legs,
shuffles over and sits down next to her,
pokes her with his long spiny tendrils,
willing her engagement now.

She tries to groom him, he’s full of poison,
speak with him, but he only lies.
At long last, she closes the screen--
with a shriek and a puff, he’s vanished away.

______________

The red caterpillar, of course, echoes WC Williams's red wheelbarrow, but what a transformation! Those hundreds of legs, the audacity of that image, poking her, lying to her---how could I resist this poem-like poem? That caterpillar is definitely "emerging"!


I look forward to reading more of Susan's work---soon!

5 comments:

Jessie Carty said...

loved reading about Susan and reading her poem :) Somehow I missed ever taking a class with her father while I was at UNCG!

Sharyn Post said...

"She tries to groom it..." love the imagery...love the poem, Susan!

Sharyn P. said...

I mean "him"...oops!

SusanElizabeth said...

I love this poem, and the idea that poetry is a dangerous and uncontrollable pet! Clever.

JellyClean said...

Small world. I read with Rhett Trull last week and visited her Cave Wall website where I found Susan's name and tracked down her poem here. I am so happy and proud to read this poem. I was her eighth grade English teacher. Can't say that I take any credit, but still proud!

Grey Brown