Sunday, July 3, 2011

International Tribute to Poet Susan Birkeland


Through the magic of the world-wide-web the works of San Francisco poet Susan Birkeland (January 18, 1961 - November 18, 2006) have recently been discovered by the organizers of the 2nd European Festival of Poetry which will be held in Antwerp in September. While surfing the internet German poet and festival co-producer Fred Schywek came across Birkeland's poetry. He and his partner Annmarie Sauer decided to include a tribute to Birkeland in this year's festival program in the form of a special audio recording of Susan's poems. Schywek and Sauer flew to San Francisco and arranged a three hour studio session. This recording will be played for the festival audience.

Susan Birkeland died of cancer at age 45. Her poems are given voice by some of the friends who were close to her in her lifetime and who treasure her memory, Bill Mercer, Ana Elsner, Jerry Ferraz, Nicole Savage and Clara Hsu. This special reading is a powerful manifestation of Susie's boundless spirit, sparkling personality and uninhibited creative force. Her poetry resonates with people across continents and nationalities, and beyond time.


Fellow poet and friend Ana Elsner paints this picture of Susie


A Portrait-Poem by Ana Elsner

The flash of an alluring smile,
perhaps accompanied by a soft, girlish giggle,
sucks you into her vortex.

Now playfully mischievous,
now profoundly compassionate,
she plays your heartstrings like so many piano keys.

And she knows it.
And she knows you, and you know her.

Pert and childlike, yet deliciously seductive,
that short, curly-haired quicksilver poet with the angelic face
delivers a high voltage charge straight to your gut.

Stripping herself naked of all pretensions,
the piercing honesty and singular directness of her poems
compel you to take stock of your own frailties and perceptions.

She takes you by the hand
and leads you through the labyrinth of human feeling,
month by month, January through December.

Now this bruised angel has taken flight and left us far behind,
we, who are still mired in our earthbound, self-perceived reality.

Yet, somehow, if you listen closely,
you hear an echo of her voice in your most secret mind.
And, somehow, if you pause but for a moment,
you can still feel the lightness of her touch upon your soul.

© Ana Elsner

Click to find out more about Susie and read her poems


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