Contributor Spotlight: Susannah W. Simpson

“The Arithmetic of Earth, Wind & Fire;” “Newsflash: Film Star Has Feet of Clay;” “History Lesson;” and “Pear” by Susannah W. Simpson appeared in Issue 24 and can be read here.

We’d love to hear more about your writing process.

The most difficult part of the craft for me is listening. If I can find enough time in my life to listen, then I find the poems are sitting waiting for me, usually in their entirety. Sometimes, the poems are so insistent on coming through I have to write on whatever is on hand in my car as I am driving. Freedom from my full-time job, chores, errands, dogs, garden, etc. allows me to listen, So I find am able to write when I travel or when I have several days off from work.  I am pretty sure that once my trust fund is discovered I will be able to write non-stop. Until then, I continue to practice my version of a Buddhist Kaon: Chop wood, peel turnips, write on envelopes while driving, or as Flaubert advised “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

What was the most difficult part of these particular pieces?

Sitting down with pen and paper to receive the Muse.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

Read Claire Wahmanhlom’s book. I was captivated by one of her poems “Poem with No Children in It” on The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day series. After I read it, I simply had to order her book “Redmouth.” Her unique use of natural elements and her erasure poems are brilliant. She has an aesthetic that is both mysterious and gorgeous. This collection does not disappoint. Buy it. Read it!

 If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

That author would be Dave Eggers. Initially, my older sister Jeanie turned me on to Believer Magazine. In it, I found profoundly funny stuff and brilliant journalism. At first, I didn’t make the connection between that magazine and Dave Eggers. I had read and admired the hubris of a writer who titled his first book: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Since then, I have subscribed to The Believer and ordered several of McSweeny’s The Voice of Witness series. McSweeny’s has been an advocate of social justice for years. These are oral histories by people whose voices would not otherwise be heard. I recommend reading Out of Exile: Narratives from the Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan, Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives, Voices from the Storm: The People of New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath and Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. 

In addition to running McSweeny’s publishing house, the well-respected Believer magazine and writing his own work (10 books, I think, at last count), Eggers formed the non-profit 826 Valencia, designed to encourage kids’ creativity and love of books. My question to him over coffee would be “So Dave, when do you sleep?”

What are you working on now? What’s next? 

The four poems published here are from my next collection “Dharma of Death and Desire.” This collection is witness to the different ways we wrestle with death and desire. These are two of the biggies that either bring out the best or the worst in our species.

Our thanks to Susannah for taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Susannah’s poems “The Arithmetic of Earth, Wind & Fire;” “Newsflash: Film Star Has Feet of Clay;” “History Lesson;” and “Pear” here:


Susannah W. Simpson’s work has been published in: The North American Review, The Wisconsin Review, South Carolina Review, Potomac, POET, Nimrod International, Poet Lore, Salamander, and Xavier Review among others. Her poem “Lily” was anthologized in Full Moon & Foxglove by Three Drops Press, UK. Her book: Geography of Love & Exile was published by Cervena Barva Press (Somerset, MA.) December 2, 2016. She was a founding member of the New Mexico Poetry Alliance, Poets for Peace, Long Island Chapter, served as a staff member for Performance Poets Association of Long Island, and is founder and Co-Director of Performance Poets of The Palm Beaches Reading Series. She holds an MFA from Bennington and a PhD from SUNY/Binghamton.