In Suzanne Cleary’s moving new book of poems, Crude Angel, the imagination enters into a tender dialogue with the world. Now the world has the last word, as wish gives way to fact, and now the imagination steps forward to fill the landscape with what is missing. The poems seem so homely and open in the particulars used to ground their shifting perspectives that the reader can’t help but be drawn in.
In these headlong, often hilarious, intensely pleasurable poems, Suzanne Cleary offers us Degas’ brother “twisted on [his] back in the wet grass of morning,” serving day after day as the model for a fallen jockey, and the theremin “played by waving one’s hands // in the air surrounding [it]… / …a song made entirely/of the world’s poor materials // somehow charged.” The poet’s work is humble, the poems seem to say, but she goes at it with a passion worthy of her many awkward characters. She’s faithful to the world as it is, its “poor materials,” charging them with her humor and quixotic imagination.
Suzanne Cleary’s witty, meditative lines interrogate nostalgias of personal and collective memory; luminaries as divergent as Gertude Stein, Leon Theremin, and Lawrence Welk offer compelling reminders of the zeal and labor involved in making art. From the sublime vistas of natural landscapes to the gleaming interiors of Woolworth’s “buttery air” to dubbing rooms to handwritten letters exchanged between lovers that provide “practice for loving/first the world, then ourselves,” Crude Angel tracks the heart’s urgent aspirations in poems of high ambition and rich reward.
—Jane Satterfield, Apocalypse Mix and Her Familiars
Read Grace Cavalieri's review in Washington Independent Review of Books.
Suzanne Cleary was born and raised in Binghamton, New York, but has lived in
the metropolitan New York City area for over 30 years. Her full-length poetry
collections are Crude Angel and Beauty Mark (BkMk Press), Trick Pear and
Keeping Time (Carnegie Mellon). Her awards include a Pushcart Prize, the
Cecil Hemley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, and the John
Ciardi Prize (for Beauty Mark). She teaches as core faculty in the low-residency
MFA in Creative Writing Program of Converse College.
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