Preserve

A woman goes on a journey. She moves through time and space. Her attention is acute, always asking of the journey itself, “What border are we crossing?” So it is that Susan Kolodny’s Preserve takes the reader not only to the natural habitats of Africa, but on an interior journey where the mind “slowed, discovers/ its intricate course.” In these poems, awareness has an animating grace: whether observing a birthday, a python, or an elephant who “carries / a branch bouquet of green,” Kolodny compels the reader to surrender to “the curiosity that is a form of love.”

Elizabeth Robinson

 

 

 

Susan Kolodny’s moving new collection begins with her arrival in Botswana and tells the story of a journey that transforms her understanding of herself and her own culture. She confronts “others” that range from vividly described impalas, warthogs, and elephants, “ears swung wide as saloon doors,” to the German travelers she sees in a new light after sharing dinner with them. She observes everything with a poignant clarity and honestly, coming to see her own species as creatures who “can go around/ for years not noticing/ a thing. Not even/ that they are lonely and afraid.” Kolodny is unsentimental about the challenges that game preserves face trying to save “the wildebeest on the landing strip” from the greed of the modern world, and the book itself becomes a Preserve she creates to save a world whose survival is at risk.

Robert Thomas

 

Little Frog

 

Little frog, we’d have missed you,
but for the boatman
who reached out with this pole, touched
the wheat-white bulrush stalk,
and there you were, thumb-sized,
a translucent gray-brown-green,
breathing its sweet scents
and clinging to the slender,
swaying world.

 

(from Preserve)

       

The naturalist and the poet unite in this collection, inviting the reader to explore Preserve’s landscape through an unromanticized yet deeply appreciative lens. In a world sparsely populated by humans but rich in wildlife, we become “mere specks under African skies,” drawn to the intricacies of the other, whether an elephant emerging from a grove of trees, a beetle thumping against a screen, or the occasional fellow traveler. Meditating on the relationship between the observer and the observed, this is a precise poetry, one in which we are asked to “always newly see…”

Susanne Dyckman

 

 

 

Noted with such vivid precision, the individuality of each of these animals, and of each of the human encounters, awakens the deepest attention. In Preserve, Kolodny has turned her imagination to the fundamental work of survival, survival of the heart and mind, and of the living world that sustains us. These poems move me to tears.

Brooks Haxton

 

 

 

Captive Muse

Susan Kolodny draws on her work as a clinical psychoanalyst in her first collection of poetry, After the Firestorm.  Kolodny's evocative style arises from an imagination both sensory and analytical. The poems suggest the unity of love and suffering, and walk a difficult line between the pleasures of the physical world and its dormant, invisible dimensions.  Kolodny is a brilliant observer of nature, at once attentive and inquisitive, whose haunting questions provide a starting point for her lyrical investigations into the losses and traumas we all experience.

(From the publisher)

 

Praise for After the Firestorm:

“Figuring consciousness not as a stream but as a body of water composed of layers of clarity
and obscurity, Kolodny’s wise poems ask 'Do we risk more when we look/or when we look
away?' This question weds lyric poet and psychoanalyst, both of whom make shapes that hold
experience so that its depths and complexities can be seen into more fully. After the Firestorm
allows safe access to 'the quieter beneath the quiet' and serves as intelligent, courageous guide
to 'a place not human…without air,' where 'some terror has swum through.' Transformed by
the poet’s compassionate vision, 'the black shadow/in the green water' becomes 'a door held
open.' I urge the intrepid reader to enter it.”

Brian Teare, author of Sight Map and Pleasure

 

“Susan Kolodny’s poems are gems of evocative perception. Whether she’s presenting a sequence of wrenching sketches at a crisis clinic, or describing the opalescent jewelfish among whom she snorkels in a lagoon, or recalling her final glimpse of a student who will die a few minutes later on the freeway, the grace with which she renders detail and emotional tone demonstrates that we are in the presence of a highly accomplished poet—deft, precise, and thoroughly engaging.”

Steve Kowit

Vigil

 

Along the side of the house, buds
on the peony, the lilac green and sticky.
In the garden, the magnolia blooms pink,
white, and burgundy.
February’s unaccustomed cold revived these,
but stunned the rest. The avocado, brown,
sags against the house. On the trellis,
a thousand dead moths of bougainvillea.
All month, I was up and down
the stairs, my nights
a dialectic of thermometers.
Now January is March. The gardener
hauls away the casualties.
Like small Eurydices, the crocuses,
which this year I turned too late to see,
have gone back into the earth.
I scrutinize my child for illness,
frightening him, scan
the dazed fuchsias for hints of green,
study the resurgence of the lilacs.
Do we risk more when we look
or when we look away?

 

(from After the Firestorm)

       

 

“Susan Kolodny gives one of the many voices in the title poem its say: 'We don’t suspect the griefs that await./ Nor what is dormant, under the blackened earth.' These poems and their author, a psychoanalyst, walk a difficult line between the sensory world and its dormant, invisible depths, where a neuroanatomy student observes, 'The dissection proceeds but not/ to the layers we dream from.' After the Firestorm showcases a brilliant observer of the natural world and her haunting, investigatory questions.”

Janet Holmes

 

“If what moves you in a poem is the journey of an imagination transformed by passionate attention to the lives of people in big cities and to the living world around them, Susan Kolodny is a poet for you. In other words, if poems move you, read this book.”

Brooks Haxton