Susan Eisenberg

Susan EisenbergRaised in a three-generation household in Cleveland, Susan Eisenberg lives in Boston. She is the author of the poetry book, Pioneering (1998), and the nonfiction book, We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction (1998), which was selected as a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and optioned by MGM for a feature film. Licensed as a master electrician, she helped shape the cultural expression and analytical thinking of the trades women’s movement nationally and internationally. Currently she is developing Permanent Care, a photo-based exploration of the relationship of the chronically ill to medication. She travels widely as a poet and lecturer; and teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Books by Susan Eisenberg for the Backwaters Press

Blind Spot Blind Spot by Susan Eisenberg

Author: Susan Eisenberg
Format: Paperback, 88 pages
ISBN: 097857821X
Published: November 2006

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Critical Praise for Blind Spot

Angry at how her grandmother erased the past, ‘traded our circle for a place in line,’ Susan Eisenberg, in these plain-spoken, not-for-the-faint-of-heart poems, resists the historical amnesia and denial American culture propagates. Funny, harrowing, loving, fierce, political, personal—she aims for the blind spot, for what we can’t see; connects the ’60s to the present, and, in the act of honest remembering, reminds us who we are.
• Elenor Wilner
Author of The Girl with Bees in Her Hair

The poems of Blind Spot offer with searing accuracy a portrait of our ambiguous, violent, hopeful era, with its inhabitants simultaneously influenced by, rejecting, and making history. With Eisenberg’s signature precision, humor, emotional intensity and, above all, perspective, these poems never shy away from the complex nature of good and evil as experienced by actual human beings. Individually and collectively, the poems of Blind Spot––to quote Ezra Pound’s definition of true literature––offer news about our contemporary existence that will stay news.
• Tom Wayman
Author of I’ll be Right Back

Eisenberg’s theme––re-invention of self within family and community––powers this book. A grandchild reveals her grandmother’s contempt for the maimed tree ‘that should have been ashamed / of itself and died / after lightning struck it twice, but / still blossomed and bore fruit.’ Politically-astute speakers take up the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, anti-war activities of the 1960s and racial profiling. While her characters learn ‘to run / from the reach of familiar hands,’ readers will rediscover the 20th century in Eisenberg’s capable ones.
• Robin Becker
Author of Domain of Perfect Affection

Poems from Blind Spot

The State: from the Sixties File

The earth is flat. I have seen people pushed
too far fall off its edge. Press your ear against
my skull: their trailing voices still echo.

I have photographs. You might recognize
someone you’ve wondered about.

I remember J— in my dorm room, the last time
we spoke. His tense posture in the chair.
Expecting my praise would raise its fist with his
for the comrade who understood:
her rape was not a crime

but a thrust for liberation. Something to cheer:
a black man raping a white woman who
walked down the street two blocks from home.
I remember his eyebrows, the fiery tip
of his cigarette, my own mute throat.

Blindfolded, gun barrel to the temple, boom
slump forward boom slump forward boom
that one VC shot a thousand times on news
brought to us by Saran Wrap and GE

souring forever off-key on my tongue
the patriotic medley sung from the flag-
flying porch of childhood.

Would they zip
our whole generation
into green bags?

2am. Glass breaking above us.
The sheriff and his sharp-toothed dogs
on their way. J— moves we
end the ROTC takeover, blend into the night’s
crowd. As we run, floodlights pour white.

(Dogs! I almost scream, but–
jungles seared of green,
girls seared of skin, Haydee
Santa Maria’s brother’s eyes on a tray.
My fears: bourgeois as love. Still, Dogs!)

Always: on the phone line:
the click: of extra ears.
Every rally, every march: Gene
greets us by name. We joke:
he must be triplets, a camera for brains,

and laugh at mistakes in their files
(always one relationship behind)
like we’d outwitted them
by changing bed partners.

CIA and DD dollars. Even Professor H— on the take.
The exact dimensions of a tiger cage determined by
which department: Mathematics? Psychology? Business?

In bed D— and I feed each other pomegranate seeds and
all night, wrestle over the justice of killing for justice.
Leaflets, cow’s blood, draft cards: thrust, thrown, burned.

Two men in sunglasses
can’t find M—‘s door; they call D—
posing as friends, for directions; arrest M—
at his hospital job. For smuggling
from the Island-Not-Supposed-To-Be-On-the-Map:
T-shirts and poetry books.

Left in a jail that would frighten God,
his long red curls shaved to bald,
even the psychiatrist who prescribes LSD
can’t bring M— back.

D—‘s security check on J— turns up: zip.
J—‘s security check on D—: ditto.

Has the French government fallen?
Y— asks. Not yet, J— reports, but
soon the Tupamaros should seize Montevideo.

A billy club’s quick cuff
to the solar plexus my lungs
airless for what seems
forever. Don’t worry, Y— calls out
as they yank my hair for the paddy wagon photo.
By the time your trial comes up
you’ll be underground!

The bail bondsman shows the rifle holster
under his suit coat and smiles,
Everyone has loved ones .

Can a Yippie trust someone who wears Lenin’s
Or a vanguard cadre take serious
a revolutionary who uses his one call from jail
to order from Pizza Bob’s?

O—. The small frame of her body appears
ghostlike in the doorway, holding a cane.
The brown flesh of her knee wrapped
with white bandage. Bullet wound.

Asleep in that Chicago apartment
that night when gunfire
blazed through the door
direct for two sleeping men
wanted dead at 21
dead at 19 (my age then).

When I see O— next it’s just her photo,
black and white. The headline: Charged
With Genocide! Out Of the Party!
Her abortion
hawked on the street corner
as everybody’s business.
If you plead to A and B we’ll drop
, the prosecutor says, confusing cases.
Don’t have a Resisting, I zing right back
straight out of American Civics
Chapter 7: The American Judicial System.

He shrugs. We can give you one.
You let me know. And he opens the door.

In a book, a photograph: R—‘s mother
cooked in a chair. She wrote him goodbye
and sat for death. Her face is his.

Language pared
to what fits on a button
or sounds good with Smash!
The waitress at Pizza Bob’s
says how she hates
those buttons staring like angry faces
across the counter leaving such
cheap tips.

Every day in court the same judge
sentences the same young man to jail.
Some days the young man’s white–
most days he’s black. Finally
my turn comes. The lawyer who said
I’d be lucky to get six months
didn’t count on Kent State.

Rambling metaphors about lead pipes and marbles,
the judge places in my hands a National Guard rifle,
then shows the whole courtroom
my fingerprint on the trigger.
I walk: probation and a fine.

Why at Kent no warning shots?

The four dead nine wounded
are warning shots.

Any white kid missing
that message is deaf.

My two hands could have strangled him
he was that close in open motorcar, his starched
throat taunting. Kissinger. Haig. All of them waved.
Open palms swinging tock tock
like weights on metronome shafts.

The earth should have opened and swallowed
their motorcade whole! On that corner
I was animal: rabid wild dog
barely hearing the voice that whispered
Secret Service Secret Service
It is never   as simple   as it seems.

Additional Praise for Susan Eisenberg

• We’ll Call You if We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction •

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year:
[Susan Eisenberg] introduces us to the feminist pioneers who first ventured onto building sites, braving hatred, abuse, physical suffering, and even mortal danger. She gives us firsthand reports of skills developed, obstacles overcome, self-esteem achieved…An inspirational and life-affirming book…[Eisenberg] tells the story through interviews with thirty women—carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, painters and plumbers…[She] moves adroitly from topic to topic, interweaving her own commentary with pertinent remarks by each of them.
• Samuel C. Florman
The New York Times Book Review

We’ll Call You If We Need You [offers a] nuanced composite picture…of tradeswomen’s experiences…[Eisenberg] makes a persuasive case for beefing-up affirmative action guidelines and revising archaic union apprenticeship programs that were designed with eighteen-year-old men in mind.
• Maureen Corrigan
Fresh Air

A remarkable, riveting [book].
• Juliet Brudney
The Boston Globe

Eye-opening and often disturbing.
• Library Journal

Pioneering •

Economic, graceful, and good-humored poems.
• Minneapolis Star-Tribune

In Pioneering, Susan Eisenberg introduces us to a world and lives too little known through poetry. This is a powerful book filled with honest, unpretentious, fearless, and beautiful poems.
• Thomas Lux
Author of Split Horizon

Susan Eisenberg is the best kind of political poet––tough, plain-spoken, but alive to the human complexities that can derail the expected moral. She has learned her trade from real masters––Levertov, Snyder––and her pacing and alertness are unerring.
• Alan Williamson
Author of Love and the Soul

• It’s a Good Thing I’m Not Macho •

One can find here the symbolic resonances that bring one back to reread a book of literature many times…These cleanly crafted poems are also about fear and the courage which overcomes it, about the journey of any fearful, determined and courageous spirit into any unknown.
• Denise Levertov


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