Tag Archives: Susanna Lang

A Small Death
by Susanna Lang

A bat drags its broken wing along the pavement
flutter-kick flutter-kick
and I can do nothing.

Its fur is a glossier brown than I’d imagined.
It doesn’t belong in the daylight
but I can do nothing.

Young women with their dogs on leashes chatter in unintelligible languages.
Elsewhere, people are dying the sudden deaths of war
or the slow diminishment of famine

but this small death is taking place at our feet
while clover and columbine bloom sanguine at the edge of the path.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 2.

Susanna LangSusanna Lang’snew collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in summer 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013).  A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, Prime Number Magazine and Verse Daily, as well as an earlier issue of Cider Press Review.  Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language. Among her current projects is Self-Portraits, a chapbook collection of ekphrastic poems focused on women across the arts. She lives in Chicago, and teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.

See all items about Susanna Lang

Visit Susanna Lang’s contributors page.

Review of Susanna Lang’s Travel Notes from the River Styx

Travel Notes from the River Styx -Lang
Travel Notes from the River Styx
Susanna Lang
978-0998215907
(2017 Terrapin Books)
$16

Review by Michael Eddie Anderson

Travel Notes from the River Styx is a carefully crafted study of a soul journey. Although the work is not personal in the narrow sense, it does focus on family. We live through the saga of a dying father, watch a mother giving piano lessons, and meet a son going off to college. But the larger reference is to the human family, including emigrant peoples, their experience of displacement. In “Migration” we hear their voices: “My family came to stay/ but not in one place”. The monk who says “My real country is not a place…” speaks for all those whose identity is less geographic, more relational.

Among the most striking characteristics of Lang’s poetry are its wild leaps. As in all good writing, the metaphysical rests on and arises from the physical. The poem “In the Rearview Mirror” turns our eye to five migrating Sandhill cranes. The birds stand motionless, “the long/knobby legs of their resurrection still”. This is the epiphanic leap, but the setting couldn’t be less so: a traffic jam.

Lang shows us we’ll find splendor and ecstasy in the pedestrian. Yes, these are Travel Notes and we do indeed pole down a mythical river, but as the opening citation from TS Elliot reminds us, in every true journey we “arrive where we started” – we end up at home.

Many unknowns await us before we get there. In the title poem, which opens section three, we’re spelunking in Mammoth Cave, its cold river running under our feet. The cavern’s name refers to its size and seeming endlessness, and in these images, Lang finds powerful metaphors of disjuncture and confusion.

The cave may be made of rock but “the border is porous”. There might be a river but it is “flowing so slowly/it almost isn’t a river”. And those etchings on the walls—they’re “written in candle smoke”. Added to all this indeterminacy is a father’s decline through dementia. The final section, a sentence fragment nine stanzas long, evokes this bewilderment:

…this dream

of drifting, low in the water but never sinking, never

snagging on a fallen branch, never touching the shore

where we walk beside the river, endlessly, our muscles

aching, the boat just out of reach—

And so it ends: abrupt, unsettling. We’ve drifted along the river only to come suddenly to a falls. Out of control, out of options, we find ourselves asking “where/has the ferryman gone, how do we call him?” But isn’t it always this way? Whether on Chicago’s elevated train or Charon’s dark waterway, the one thing we can expect is: “destination unintelligible”.

Some poems give us comfort. In Travel Notes from the River Styx, Susanna Lang gives us more. She’s a wise guide on a dark river every human being must learn to navigate.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 1.

Michael Eddie Anderson has been an editor at Rhino: the Poetry Journal and now serves on their advisory board. His poetry has appeared in New Verse News, Matter Monthly, Rhino, Pen Woman, the Poet and Artist Chapbook of the Northwest Cultural Council and other journals. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Susanna LangSusanna Lang’snew collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in summer 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). Read her poem “Confession” in CPR Volume 20, Issue 1 (April, 2018).

See all items about Michael Eddie Anderson

Visit Michael Eddie Anderson’s contributors page.

See all items about Susanna Lang

Visit Susanna Lang’s contributors page.

Confession
by Susanna Lang

I have given my mother’s body into others’ hands;
have trusted her unsteady gait, her porous bones,
her sleepless nights and the music she holds in her hands

to their care; have let them cut her body open
with sharpened chisels, gouges, pliers and bone hooks;
have allowed the adulteration of her human parts

with foreign material. I have left her to sleep or not
in a strange bed, to recover or not, to get up
with only those other hands at her elbow and back;

to take her first hesitant steps with only their aid.
And during this time I’ve remembered each day to bring
a bowl of food to our space beneath the house

where a feral cat has taken shelter, have called
to the cat with a word he hears as food in the bowl
but not as a name that would mean he belongs to me,

which he does not. And then I’ve gone inside
to wrap myself in a blanket and wait for a call
from a woman who’s never been my mother’s daughter.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 1.

Susanna LangSusanna Lang’snew collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was released in summer 2017 from Terrapin Books. Her last collection was Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013).  A two-time Hambidge fellow, her poems have appeared in such journals as Little Star, Prairie Schooner, december, Prime Number Magazine and Verse Daily, as well as an earlier issue of Cider Press Review.  Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language.  Among her current projects is Self-Portraits, a chapbook collection of ekphrastic poems focused on women across the arts. She lives in Chicago, and teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.

See all items about Susanna Lang

Visit Susanna Lang’s contributors page.