Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World, Cures Include Travel, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, and Cloud Pharmacy. She has received awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and Peace Corps Writers. Her fellowships include an Artists Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa.
She has worked as a staff person for Amnesty International, an electoral supervisor in Bosnia Herzegovina, and a human rights trainer in Gaza and the West Bank. Rich lived in the Republic of Niger, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, later moving to South Africa to teach at the University of Cape Town on a Fulbright Fellowship.
Susan Rich’s Cloud Pharmacy is a marvel of a book! Her poetry is an exuberant exploration of a life in love and in longing: tilt-a-whirls, pineapple rings, and small cartons of milk alert us to enlivened possibilities of nostalgia and desire.
At times surreal, often leavened with a wry black humor, echoing Elizabeth Bishop, these poems create an “ecstatic theology” in which ambivalence–does this passionate heady speaker want to live “jig-sawed together” or “lonely as brooms”?–is both song and argument.
In Cloud Pharmacy, Susan Rich transforms unease into beauty—sensual and marvelously conflicted and nuanced poems of romantic love, memory, and identity. These poems weigh the gorgeous evidence but never offer simple decisions. The recurring image of an encroaching wildfire never lets them rest. In a central sequence of completely original poems, Rich explores nineteenth-century photographer Hannah Maynard’s proto-surrealistic images, looking in grief-heavy places for revelation. The result is wonderfully strange and unsettling; this is Rich’s most haunting collection yet.