Susan Allison Down by the Riverside Ways

ISBN 13: 9780981788333

Down by the Riverside Ways

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9780981788333: Down by the Riverside Ways

These poems revel in all the sensual pleasures life has to offer. They also lay bare the injustices afflicting too many of the poets fellow townspeople, who respond to the various wars waged against them with the fortitude of survivors and with a love for one another not shown by their persecutors. Susan Allison has done for Middletown, Connecticut, what Williams did for Paterson, New Jersey: she has seen past its pedestrian surface to its mythical underpinnings. She has written a book whose passion, honesty, and visceral style make it an important contribution to the world of poetry.

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About the Author:

Susan Allison lives in Middletown, Connecticut with her husband, Stephan, and son, John. Born in Derby, Connecticut and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, she calls poetry and wanderlust the two main constants in her life. After mountain-climbing and hitch-hiking through East Africa, she returned to Wesleyan University to earn a BA in African Studies in 1985. Shortly after graduation, she discovered used and rare bookstores, which became new destination points for her wanderlust until she opened her own, Ibis Books & Gallery, in 1989. The bookstore was transformed in 1991 into NEAR, Inc./The Buttonwood Tree, an arts and cultural performance space on Main Street in Middletown, Connecticut.

Review:

Some poets produce highly polished and showy zirconium studded with many well-behaved commas. Susan Allison has created poems that seem to have become naturally what they are as diamonds emerge from carbon under pressure, not laid out on black velvet, but set in mother earth. --John Basinger

In addition to being elemental, this book is seismic in its joys and furies. The poet is as unrestrained in her pleasures as she is passionate in her hatred of a host of wars waged against the least among us. She treats us to the sensual joys of a childhood spent partly near the rivers and marshlands of the Connecticut shoreline and partly in rural Kentucky, where she reveled in rambunctious rebellion, then moves us to Middletown, Connecticut, which becomes a metaphor for Middle America. In this very real and mythical place, Allison celebrates new pleasures: The good life/ comes through your eyes / and your ears and your skin / the way a wild animal comes at you / when it is just curious. In town and also down by the fish-rank muck, soft and warm and full of suck of the river that runs through it, there is erotic and marital love. And there is also the love of a mother for her cub. Seldom has a poet sung so sweetly of so many sorts of love. These include her love of the sidewalk legends who inhabit her town, the street people, the prostitutes, the jump-roping children, the sanely mad, the old men down on their luck, the activists, the drunks, the visiting troubadours all the characters that make this book as rich in local heroes as any Winesburg, Ohio or Spoon River, Illinois. But despite the Maxfield Parrish light that illuminates the town at sunset and despite the love the downtrodden show one another, there is always pain the pain of a deprivation that drives some to drugs and death, the pain caused by wars waged against the poor by everyone from landlords to office-holders, the pain crystalized in characters like an old woman, savior of all the destitute on her block, who is badgered by the police and yuppified neighbors when all she wants is to carry groceries to her walk-up digs in a tenement. Susan Allison reserves some of her strongest words to castigate the creeps and the politicians and the buyers / and the sellers and owners and even some of / the social workers in their brand new jobs. The book ends with a volley of furious poems, among which is one of its most original, The Cow Is for Us. The poet refuses to go gently: she reveals herself as The ancient shamanic Karma-Mama...dancing again, / whirling dervishly, / lifting all her skirts... / stirring and gathering unscrupulous winds / violently streaking the sky / electric dark. In the end, however, there is one saving grace that Allison wishes upon the wagers of war, a grace granted them when they are occasionally fortunate enough / to fail and fall, / through grace, contrite. --Rennie McQuilkin

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Susan Allison
Published by Antrim House (2009)
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