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Susan Firer

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  Susan Firer
Susan Firer
Susan Firer's most recent book is Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People: New & Selected Poems 1979-2007. Her previous books have been awarded the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, the Posner Award, and the Backwaters Prize. She is a recipient of a Milwaukee County Artist Fellowship, a Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, the Lorine Niedecker Award, and in 2009 she was given the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Distinguished Alumnus Award. She has poems in over 35 anthologies, including Best American Poetry; Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams (University of Iowa Press); The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems (Red Hen Press); and The Book of Irish American Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present (University of Notre Dame Press). Her poems have appeared in over 100 journals, such as Chicago Review, jubilat, Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, and others. Her poem "Call Me Pier" was included in the Poetry Foundation's Poetry Everywhere series and is available for viewing on YouTube and the Poetry Foundation's Poetry Everywhere website. Her poems "The Beautiful Pain of Too Much" and "Call Me Pier," have been choreographed by Janet Lilly and performed at St. Mark's in the Bowery, New York City, and at the 2010 Milwaukee Lakefront Festival of the Arts. She edits the Shepherd Express online poetry column, available at MilwaukeeExpress.com. From 2008-2010 she was Poet Laureate of the City of Milwaukee.

Silly Little City I Live and Love In

Susan Firer
Silly little city with your harp street lamps,
blizzards and vigil light stars,
with your tutued street lights
and 30 below wind chills, bandshells and polkas,
and steamy smoky lake's pink waves,
with your huge orange moons rising from the lake,
with your huge red suns rising from the lake,
with your sad jumpers falling into the lake,
& your socialist watershed and Oriental Theatre minarets
and Sunday morning Quakers' meetings
surrounded by church bells and taverns,
with everyday George Washington
walking down Wisconsin Avenue,
with your ice fishing clinics and beer blessings,
with your seven deadly sins parades,
with your alewives' parades and cladaphora winds
and streets named after sausages (Nock),
with Francis Bacon's blue face
on the side of your art museum
and Joseph Cornell's "Celestial Navigation
by Birds" (Gallery 18) inside your museum,
with your statues of Goethe and Burns,
Olmstead parks and bakery winds,
silly little city that erases me, I keep
fastening your lake winds to the page.

Nervous Catechism

"Catechism - a form of questions followed by answers to be memorized"

Q 1. Who designed St. Paul's Cathedral?
The architect with the name of a bird, Sir Christopher Wren, designed St. Paul's Cathedral.

Q. 2. Is Godward a true direction?
Godward is a true direction.

Q. 3. Which star in the Milky Way is an alien star?
Arcturus is the alien star.

Q. 4. Which way is Godward?
One must never ask another to direct them Godward.

Q. 5. What is progress?
Progress is that which should be interrogated.

Q. 6. How is a word a church?
Trick Question! A word isn't a church.
A word is part banditti, part shadow, part shim.

Q. 7. What is the celestial sphere?
"The celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere of gigantic (infinite?) radius of which the observer is the center and on which all celestial objects are considered to lie." For example, the poem is a celestial sphere.

Q. 8. What is revelation?
The red-vented bulbul is revelation.


Your thunder snows
are hard on birds.
Your wind emptied trees'
paperwasps' nests turn
into owls. Storm drunk
ice glasses pier; mercury-
colored clouds
wild sky.

January, Janus, Ianuarius,
god of gates, doors & doorways, I
was conceived in your two-headed god-
cold month with its
pearl snow fog halos, & its
iced genomes & genetics,
with its thaws' floating ice scriptures'
illuminated texts.

January, your bulletins are hail.
You hymn ice stomp;
your ice thicks thinking,
January, the older I am the deeper
I enter your wave waterreal practice
& wave voodoo tirades,
janitor waves' gates
& ice halls' tolls.
Murders of crows in white
trees watch every cold thing.

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