The  Laugh We Make When We Fall


The Laugh We Make When We Fall

Susan Firer

The Backwaters Prize in Poetry Series

67 pages


August 2021


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February 2022


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About the Book

In Susan Firer’s The Laugh We Make When We Fall, peonies; snow drops, “with all their survivor ecstasies”; “windy caravans of lilacs”; and “Dali Lama-robed “ daylilies act as magnets to attract history—personal and historical—myths, language, facts, love, gratitude, prayers, beauty, and ”all the colors of death and sex.” Family oddities appear in this collection, as well as Catholic rituals, saints, and ghost poets. Always ghost poets: Whitman, Neruda, Thoreau, and Saint Francis.

In these poems, “toads/ pull their finished skins off/ delicately as evening gloves,” and in “Birds” you can look into an injured bird’s neck and see “everywhere it had ever flown…” see “insects, & seeds, & amphibians,/ & even a piece or two of snake.” Using list poems, exploded elemental odes, lyrics, and American sonnets, Firer writes her own survivor ecstasies: “I was buried under/deaths: mother’s, father’s, sisters’ deaths wrapped me/ like surgical wrap. And who and where would I be/ when all their gauzy deaths were removed?” In poem after poem in this collection, Firer begins to explore and to answer that question. This collection is "a wild generosity of spirit," creating an effect that is "sacramental."


"A wild generosity of spirit and vision characterizes this collection. The language marries the elemental and worldly with aplomb, and the effect is sacramental. A wedding lies at the heart of this book, impure life in the arms of morality. From this union a sensual spirituality bears the eros of our bodies in this time and space. The subject of the book is humble even as it is universal, hovering as it does over and within that great oxymoron, human love, which drives us to remember why we are here, to practice faithfulness to the world, and to give blood. Both fierce and vulnerable, these poems posses a Whitmanian fertility, raised by a grace wholly female to carry the consciousness in which we move through this century and to the seventh generation."—CarolAnn Russell, Backwaters Prize Judge for 2001

"To read the poetry of Susan Firer is to enter a unique building constructed by the imagination, like Kubla Khan's pleasure-dome, out of the shimmering materials of words. These poems reveal a love of language both for its own dear sake and for its ability to deliver the news some of us cannot live without."—Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States, 2001

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