This week’s other two featured books, “The Filled In Spaces,” by Michael Overa and “The Timekeeper’s Son,” by Sara Baker, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our authors page.
THE BOOK: Heisenberg’s Salon
PUBLISHED IN: 2017
THE AUTHOR: Susan Lewis (www.susanlewis.net)
THE EDITOR: Geoffrey Gatza
THE PUBLISHER: BlazeVOX [books] (www.blazevox.org)
SUMMARY: A collection of very short prose pieces exploring the gray zone between poetry and fiction, built on an analogy between quantum indeterminacy and the fluidity and multiplicity of our psyches, points of view, and existence itself.
THE BACK STORY: I began working with the more narratively driven poems in Heisenberg’s Salon as a kind of emotional and intellectual R & R after being immersed in another collection of prose poems (my next collection, Zoom [https://www.amazon.com/Zoom-Washington-Prize-Susan-Lewis/dp/1944585184]) which are far more abstract, fragmented, and entangled on the lexical meta-level. This was not my first time exploring this sub-genre: my first full-length collection, How to be Another (Cervena Barva Press, 2014) [https://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Another-Susan-Lewis/dp/099100910X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=susan+lewis+how+to+be+another&qid=1552518313&s=books&sr=1-1-catcorr] gathered a group of tale-like creatures in one of its four sections.
In this book, my critique of categories, boundaries, and borders has intensified (in the geopolitical context as well). A fish confined to a small container stays a small fish. The same, I would argue, can be said for a psyche. Any insistence on us vs them deprives ‘us’ of the (sometimes challenging) benefit of ‘their’ company and perspective. For this book, I found a kind of metaphorical support for this principle of inclusivity in quantum indeterminacy.
My love of the prose poem dates back to Julio Cortázar’s seminal The Lines of the Hand, and Russell Edson’s Dinner Time, both of which, I would argue, can be relied upon, in a pinch, as complete guides to writing of any kind — be it short story, novel, or poem. (Which is to inveigh, once again, against the unhelpful constraints of such categories). The poems in Heisenberg are also deeply indebted to the work of Lydia Davis and James Tate, both of whom transform the ordinary into the extraordinary by penetrating, judicious, and genuinely inspired elisions, containments, and departures. And Kafka looms over all of us who touch on the surreal in the hope of exposing the tragic absurdity of the real.
WHY THIS TITLE: The reference is to Werner Heisenberg, one of the leading theorists of quantum indeterminacy. Playing on the notion that a multiplicity of possibilities constantly coexist, it’s a nod at the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s Cat.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This collection offers bite-sized parables and tales which might be amusing, whimsical, thought-provoking, or all of the above. Although cast by the author as poems, they can certainly be enjoyed by the lover of fiction as well — or anyone willing to take a short plunge into the surprising possibilities of language and the imagination.
“Susan Lewis’s Heisenberg’s Salon is a treat to read. These poems carry a tension between surprise and predictability, an exquisite balance which opens new inroads into both form and meaning. In prose poems which waste not a word, Lewis is extremely adept at creating expectations that she gently, consistently, benevolently machinates against. Form perfectly fits content as these subtle poems explore subjectivity versus empirical reality, spirituality versus material commitment, time and mortality versus eternal life, the animate versus the inanimate (boulders, trees), and finally individual creativity and dreamfulness versus the constitution of god or utopia as our collective projections. Reading Heisenberg’s Salon makes us aware of a poet whose moral calm we need in an era when the divisions amongst us are being elaborated, rather than collapsed, for anti-humanistic ends. It takes a lot of courage to put together a collection like this.
— Anis Shivani
“There is a wise, gentle ire — ancient but not old — running through the brilliant prose poems of Susan Lewis’s Heisenberg’s Salon. This ire is embodied by a woman (maybe the poet, maybe not) who changes with each poem, and yet remains the same. In one poem, she wonders whether a unicorn of impossible radiance will show up at her picnic. She knows it won’t, but her annoyance lands, not on the unicorn, but on the wine: it falls a little short. In another, she admits that her life is all illusion, but “rather / than bemoan the shortcomings . . . she resolved to / cultivate its restorative potential: lingering and loitering, biding her / time, resting up for the thrill of the night.” Both poet and woman question the expectation of reality in every poem, but remain bent on subverting it any way they can. Perhaps by tweaking the laws of physics. The beauty of Heisenberg’s Salon is that anything is probable. — Sharon Mesmer
AUTHOR PROFILE: Susan Lewis is the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Heisenberg’s Salon and, most recently, Zoom, winner of the Washington Prize (Word Works, 2018). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in a number of anthologies, including They Said (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches Editions, 2017), and Carrying the Branch (Glass Lyre Press, 2018), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Web Conjunctions, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Raritan, Seneca Review, Verse, VOLT, and Verse Daily. She is the founding editor of Posit, an online journal of literature and art (www.positjournal.com).
AUTHOR COMMENTS: My hope is that all kinds of readers can enjoy this book, and come to love the prose poem as much as I do!
LOCAL OUTLETS: various
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.amazon.com/Heisenbergs-Salon-Susan-Lewis/dp/1609642694; https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781609642693/heisenbergs-salon.aspx; http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/Poetry/heisenberg%E2%80%99s-salon-by-susan-lewis-476/
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://susanlewis.net/contact/