by Susan Terris
It's All Greek
Lo! with a little rod,
I did but touch the honey of romance —
And must I lose a soul's inheritance?
— Oscar Wilde
Yes, until proved otherwise: innocent, innocent . . .
Not a lover, more a connoisseur of slender works of art.
The form of a cat or cat o' nine tails. Or of a long-necked
porcelain vase, sleek, newly-laid with Greek keys.
Ah, the Greeks had it right, after all, oiling the naked
boy bodies, crowning them lightly with laurel or olive.
There are sins of commission and omission. Of the two, I
prefer the latter. Boy-becoming/man-not-yet-finished.
Before you judge me, I admit to nothing and everything:
Illusion is the first of all pleasures. Not only knee breeches
or velvet but flesh close to the bone. And I — a slut for Beauty.
Contrariwise, Terris's thirteenth book of poetry, is an exploration of Lewis Carroll and his immortal character Alice. Into this often whimsical meditation, Terris weaves personal experience and memories of life lived passionately. Many of these poems flirt with the dark side of love and desire. But Terris's poems always display life's abundance and richness, even amid loss and pain.
In Susan Terris's new book, Contrariwise, art and life combine to become poetry. . . . Using extraordinary language, these poems rely principally on image and sound. Many have epigraphs by poets, artists, philosophers, and fictional characters as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Christopher Robin, Balthus, and Mrs. Rabbit. Epigraphs often have little to do with the poem and more to do with the poet's likes and dislikes, but in Contrariwise they are fuse and fuel for the poems; taken together they propel this deeply imaginative collection.
Susan Terris’s poetry is exquisite and extraordinary. Her poems exhibit an intellectual verve and a linguistic brilliance that are remarkable. There are few poets who can so deftly orchestrate the dramatic dilemmas of the daily with the profound wisdoms of the larger world.
— David St. John
There seems to be no limit to the range of experience and empathy in the far-reaching poems of Susan Terris. Out of a life passionately lived and remembered, she has constructed a bold map for survival and self-understanding. Her wisdom, dazzle of language, imaginative exploration of time and nature, and amazing appetite for risk and "dark surprise" make Contrariwise a book to treasure.
— Shirley Kaufman
These poems are our fondest human wishes and hopes given voice. They report the world's abundance and richness even amid loss and pain.
— Li-Young Lee