Department of English

Creative Writing Alum Susan Somers-Willett Publishes "Quiver"

Thu, December 31, 2009
Creative Writing Alum Susan Somers-Willett Publishes


At the crossroads of science, mathematics, and art lives Quiver, a stunning new collection of poems that seeks to reconcile the empirical truths of science with the emotional truths of human experience. Through an ambitious set of poetic series and sequences, Somers-Willett re-invents the love poem, conjuring a voyeuristic affair between a radio astronomer and Dark Matter, radium’s atomic aubade for Marie and Pierre Curie, and the shrill love song of Gregor Mendel’s cross-pollinated pea plants. With intelligence and wonder, Quiver comes to understand the pursuits of science and beauty as one and the same, rendering an exquisite world where the graph of a mathematical equation can become the image of “love’s witness / running with its arms open all the way home.” In deft, musical lyrics that are by turns formal and experimental, studied and accessible, meditative and pragmatic, Somers-Willett portrays scientific phenomena in strikingly intimate ways. Every mystery connects in her universe, revealing a relationship between science and human sentiment that is as surprising as it is profound.

Praise for Quiver

“The poems in Quiver reverberate with the ravishing and harrowing erotics of the natural world. Somers-Willett's lush meditations praise process, eloquently, as they consider first and last things, figure and ground, the visible and reticent. Science and biography are infused with lyricism in poems at once succulent and accurate, vibrant with mind and rich with substance. In the 19th century, a prophetic Whitman sang the body electric. Here, in a powerfully imaginative group of poems on the Curies, radium opens its mouth ‘to crow / the dawn atomic.’ Such richly observant poems ‘glow in the small moments,’ even as they take on the largest subjects. Susan B.A. Somers-Willett is a marvelously intelligent poet, attentive to the possibilities of nature and language, the reciprocity of all that is.”

—Alice Fulton, author of Cascade Experiment

“In Susan B.A. Somers-Willett’s Quiver, poetic imagination and scientific theory merge as ‘math enacts speculation’ and ‘the beloved atoms sing.’ Darwin, Oppenheimer, and the Curies appear amid the images and meditations rendered by her generous, yet discerning skill. Somers-Willett is a poet as passionate and inventive as the radical thinkers she counts among her muses. Quiver is a marvel of exacting speculation and song.”

—Terrance Hayes, author of Wind in a Box

Quiver is about the connection between the natural world and how we live in it. Whether about physics, relationships, or pure observation, it’s the language of these poems—rich with stunning lyricism, rich with not merely fact, but also many truths—that Susan B.A. Somers-Willett uses to unlock the secrets of this world. She lays out the factors of metaphor and music in surprising ways, and her solution for X is always satisfying, ringing with the thrill of discovery and unvarnished emotion. These gifts are why ‘I will travel the black lines, nearly out of sight…/ I will ride the light’s bending into this inverted world,’ trusting the poet every step of this journey.”

—A. Van Jordan, Author of Quantum Lyrics
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