Sacramento Poetry Center
A reading for The Fortunate Islands
Monday Oct. 6, 2008 at 7:30 PM
Host: Tim Kahl
Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of a full-length collection, THE FORTUNATE ISLANDS (Marick Press) and five previous chapbooks: A CAMELLIA FOR JUDY (Frith Press, 1998), FEATHER’S HAND (Swan Scythe Press, 2000), TO A SMALL MOTH (Poet’s Corner Press, 2001), Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s GREATEST HITS (Pudding House, 2003), THE LAND (Rattlesnake Press, 2005) and a letterpress collection, THE BOOK OF INSECTS (Spruce Street Press, 2003). Her most recent chapbook, CASSIOPEIA ABOVE THE BANYAN TREE appears online as Mudlark 33 and will be released in an expanded print version from Rattlesnake Press in September, 2007.
Her work has been included in national and regional anthologies such as CLAIMING THE SPIRIT WITHIN (Beacon Press), I’VE ALWAYS MEANT TO TELL YOU, LETTERS TO OUR MOTHERS (Pocket Books), TO FATHERS: WHAT I’VE NEVER SAID, AN ANTHOLOGY OF LETTERS TO FATHERS (Story Line Press), O TASTE AND SEE (Bottom Dog Press), HIGHWAY 99 (Heyday Books), and WORDS AND QUILTS (Quilt Digest Press, 1996); her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, North American Review, Rosebud, Cutbank, Nimrod, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Iris, Comstock Review, Oxymoron, Yankee, Runes, Poet Lore, Smartish Pace, Cimarron Review, Spoon River Quarterly, Hawaii Review and Passages North, among many others. Her short story “The Audience” is forthcoming as an illustrated chapbook (Spring 2007) from Uptown Books. She has been featured on Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily; her other honors include a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, The Chicago Literary Award from Another Chicago Magazine, the Bazzanella Award for Short Fiction and a number of Pushcart nominations. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association; her essays, interviews, reviews and creative non-fiction have appeared in Poetry Now, Small Press Review, Perihelion and GARDENING AT A DEEPER LEVEL (Garden House Press, 2004); she also has reviews forthcoming in Poetry Flash.
Over the years she has worked as a freelance writer and poetry columnist for the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union, as the editor of the on-line journal Perihelion and the print journal Quercus; she has been a California Poet-in-the-Schools, the program director of an arts program for homeless women, an educator, and an artist in the prisons. She lives in Sacramento, California, where she is an editor of Swan Scythe Press, an exhibiting visual artist and an instructor for the University of California, Davis Extension.
Red Hills and Bone
In the Lotus Garden Restaurant,
a man overturns the cluttered table
for six where his family is gathered.
He grabs the lip
Of the table and flips it quickly, like
a child flips a bug, so the underbelly
of rough pine appears but the napkins
vanish, so the tablecloth’s
lilies clamp their petals and the scooped
China moons, heaped with noodles and exquisite
fish, swim to the floor, so the chopsticks
un-X themselves from the thick
dragon plates and the glassware shatters,
so the tea in its rice-seed cups spatters
jasmine over the stunned waiter’s shoes.
This is the precise moment —
as the man’s face pulses with sudden
rage; as the throng in the restaurant
swivels its many faces burning in unison
toward them, one blank questioning
sun; as the waiters in their spotless
white aprons begin to flutter and circle
like scavenging gulls — this is exactly
the moment when the family climbs
the blood red hills, determined
to disappear into them, to leave no trace —
erasing themselves like soft wood chips
into fire; leaving the fury of the man
far behind; leaving him alone
to inhabit his desert
like a vestigial bone.