Fair Sun

(David R. Godine, Publisher, 2017)

Susan Barba creates an eerie mix of delicacy and terror. ‘How close they are to one another, / the garden, the fire pit, the dark groves,’ she writes, and they are close indeed in these poems that remember the genocide her Armenian grandfather barely survived, and honor the subtlest quiet details of daily life. Her poems are chalices.
— Rosanna Warren

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2014; (c) courtesy Galerie Lelong Paris

Paging through Barba’s collection, I first opened to “Marathon,” the penultimate poem in the book, and was instantly hooked. “Only the moon over Soldier’s Field Road sees us depart, / quiet until the sun apocalyptic above the hospital / jars us into words at river’s bend, electric pink / feedback feathering the water.” Rare is the pitch-perfect running poem, but Barba captures this New England moment: “Human / technicolor snakes and schoolbuses perambulate / the park and idly limber in preparation to go west.” Barba’s poetry settles on the tongue. “How Should We Live Our Lives?” is a poem worthy of framing. The first stanza follows the title’s question with another: “With love / and trepidation / sign our letters?” More questions follow, before we realize this is an internal conversation that reaches the air: “Daughter, / as you grow up I / will grow old, / a fact that shocks / you, even at age three.” The narrator laments “Love has no part in this.” Barba is masterful at finding the shine in disparate moments: “Yellow coldness, puddles in the mud. / The brush of winter waiting for the sky to dry.” A book to read, and re-read.
— Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
Susan Barba’s poems are a counterstrike to those who might claim an orthodox division between the nature poem, the political poem, and mythic auto-reflection. They’re all of the above, setting gears of thought and feeling into a motion so subtle that it might be hours or days before I realize that the seed for my preoccupation had been planted by her observation, her question or verbal turn. When I then return to the poem, it has changed, or I have. Few poets are, for me, so rich in gifts and so graceful in the giving.
— Benjamin Paloff
Susan Barba has perfected her poet’s gift for thinking in images, moving with efficient grace like— for example— the fox she evokes ‘picking his way like a dancer/ from trunk to trunk, his coat the color of the dead unfallen/ oak leaves.’ Dead and unfallen, the historic past permeates Barba’s art encompassing both surface idyll and underlying memory of the Armenian genocide. Barba thinks not only in images, but in voices, as well: ‘When they start killing, my father that night came.’ In Fair Sun the great themes of suffering and immigration, identity and loss, take new forms.
— Robert Pinsky


I Want To Live: Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian

Now Available
Selected and translated by Shushan Avagyan, edited by Susan Barba and Victoria Rowe (Boston: AIWA Press, 2005).