The UndertoweBook - 1998
"Clean-cut, fluent, witty, direct, full of personality and surprise. Susan Snively can also be deeply meditative, grave and affecting, uproarious. In all of her work, which varies expertly in form as well as mood, her words have a delectable texture."--Richard Wilbur
Wit and sorrow run throughout the poems of Susan Snively's third collection. The undertow in these poems is the current of memory, sometimes dangerous, surprising, or passionate.
"The Speed of the Drift," a 19-poem sequence, is populated by lost friends and lovers, casualties of history, figures from art and myth, stories of illness and death, all animated by speech. In poems about divorce, family, or travel, Snively is "a woman holding a balance" between "the little I ask for" and "the little I get," sorting "the indifference and the rage from the secret joy." Humor, sometimes directed at herself, is a source of joy in "Too Late," where Snively sorts through childhood ambitions--ballet dancer, famous actress, nuclear physicist, singer--to arrive at what she is, "a decent cook, / a glutton jeweled with the glaze of manners, / eager to please while pleasuring her mouth."
Language and speech become the greatest source of wisdom, affection, and pleasure:
To love a word,
"wine," for example, is to love the thing
itself, as well as the occasion--
voluptuous evening hour, sybarite friends--
that stirs it into shimmer, so that reflection
tastes the same as a life without regret.
In the final sequence, "The Undertow," Snively writes of the deaths of her parents, retrieving her connection with her southern upbringing in "the ancient hillbilly lament, "whauunh," part curse, / part yodel, that comes out of me / past years of booklarnin'."
Susan Snively, director of the Writing Center at Amherst College, is the author of two previous collections of poems, "From This Distance" and "Voices in the House," and of a crime novel, "The Power to Kill."