Saturday poetry pick: Cloud Pharmacy

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about imagery–about what makes an image strong. Susan Rich’s new collection, Cloud Pharmacy, bursts with powerful, startling, playful images. From the first lines of the book in “Blue Grapes

There were days made entirely of dust
months of counter-winds

and years unbalanced on the windowsill.

and later in the poem

God visited, delivered ice cream; returned your delinquent library books.

and then

The dying are such acrobats—

You see them ringing doorbells with their clipboards

remarking on the globes of lilacs.

That’s from the first poem!

Or in “Clouds, Begin Here“,

If we’re lucky, the mind sits up straight

in our interior garden, our house of sky

the remodeled one car garage. Open the suitcase

of ink and erasures; let language spill out

in mid-air.

Images of fire flirt through these poems and sometimes take center stage, as in “There Is No Substance That Does Not Carry One Inside Of It” (how’s that for a title!) and “Darling, This Relationship is Damned.”

Another kind of fire–many of the poems explore romantic love–in all its upsides and downsides, its exuberant moments and the hollowing loneliness between them. The stoically hopeful “Perhaps You Are–” ending with “You will live / this life alone– / and you will write” is followed by “Anniversary,” a relationship coming and going and coming, always unsettling, as in life.

And in the midst of this energetic unsettling, “After Shiva” shifts to another kind of love–the love of a daughter for her father; the middle ekphrastic Dark Room section that investigates a photographer’s self-portraits taken after her daughter’s death.

The poems in this collection are a celebration and an image feast. I found so much to enjoy, but I’ll leave you with the two poems linked above as your first taste.