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Author/Reader Discussions > Cloud Pharmacy Author/Reader Discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Next month, we'll be discussing Cloud Pharmacy with poet Susan Rich.

Susan and her publisher have given us a total of 10 copies to give away (a mix of print - limited to US resident, and digital PDF open to everyone).

In order to be considered, you must comment here or on the blog for a shot at winning one and secure a spot in the discussion that kicks off November 17th:


This giveaway will run through October 8th.

Winners will be announced here and via email (if you provide one) on October 9th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads, stating why you'd like to receive a copy of the book, what format you prefer, and where you reside remember, only US residents can win a paper copy!.


2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from November 17th through November 22nd. Susan has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for her.

*If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion right here in this thread next month.

3 - If your goodreads profile is blocked (set on private), please leave me another way to contact you.

message 2: by Kate (last edited Oct 01, 2014 05:00PM) (new)

Kate | 10 comments I would love to win a copy (hard copy preferred, but I can make do with an electronic copy) because my library here struggles to get new and interesting titles. I live in Jefferson City, MO, and I definitely agree to partake in the book discussion.

message 3: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments I live in Thailand, currently, and would love to be a part of this discussion. Poetry was my original reading passion, and I have recently delved back into it, but I have not read much contemporary poetry. I'd be interested in getting a PDF version of the book if that is possible and would be more than happy to be a part of the book discussion.

message 4: by Nani1018 (new)

Nani1018 | 13 comments I would love to receive a hard copy of this book! I have been trying to get back into reading poetry, so hopefully this will help me with my reboot. I live in Canton, GA, and I promise to participate in the discussion.

message 5: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (rosannabell) | 125 comments I'd love to win a paper copy of Cloud Pharmacy. First, I love the title. Second, the last book of poetry I read I thoroughly enjoyed and I'm curious to read other collections. I live in the US and will gladly participate in the group discussion.

message 6: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Giveaway is over and guess what? Everyone who commented are winners! I'll be in touch shortly, be on the lookout! And thanks for your interest in being a part of our November discussion....

message 7: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments great! looking forward to it.

message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hello there,

I'm so glad that there has been interest in Cloud Pharmacy. There's a few interviews I've done since the book has come out which I thought might be of interest. You can also hear me reading a couple of the poems such as the opening poem "Blue Grapes" at The Poet on the Poem . There's a number of interviews listed on the righthand column of my blog The Alchemist's Kitchen

I look forward to your questions -- on content, form, photography or whatever strikes you. Thanks for participating!

message 9: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Hi Susan!

Welcome to the group! We are really excited to have you here and I'm especially curious to know what everyone thought of your poetry.

To kick this off, what is your favorite poem from this collection, and why?

message 10: by C.A. (new)

C.A.  (clarue) | 6 comments Well, I'm not sure what happened with everyone on this today. But I just wanted to say that I loved the book, and MY favorite part was the "spread" of "Dutch Courtyard" with its snapshot images of a disassembled woman..."She is arms--green bucket--angled foot--/headscarf--house dress--body of a woman" opening onto "In a Village West of Galway" where she (the speaker) is "determined to earn/the lighthouse within her--/ and lead it to the page". When Rich (what a fitting surname) wraps this poem with the lines "Tomorrow she will/reattach herself, line by line-/break to this radiant quarrel,/this pocket-sized, revolutionary pen," it felt like I had really found the heart of book. And I was very moved by her experience. Also, as a poet-artist, I love the way she plays with color and the whole suite of poems about Hannah's photographs, which I have commented on elsewhere.

message 11: by Rosanna (last edited Nov 17, 2014 04:34PM) (new)

Rosanna (rosannabell) | 125 comments Hi Susan,

I'm excited to be a part of this discussion!

First to answer your question, I would have to say my favorite poem is "Naming It" (I haven't finished the whole collection yet, but this one is my favorite so far).

I really liked the ideas it explores. Names are so important, they are often the first point of contact you have with someone; when you meet you exchange names.

What I really liked about "Naming It" was it's coming of age quality. At first, Susan doesn't relate to her name and lacks the confidence she believes other girls with other names tend to have, but then as she discovers the history of powerful women and places around the world who share variants of her name, she becomes happier and embraces the power of her name.

Am I correct in assuming this poem is based on personal experience, since Susan is your name after all?

I really love the title of your poetry collection! I associate clouds with dreams and the surreal, so I think of a pharmacy of dreams when I think of your title.

I have a question regarding the title. For the title of the book you used the word pharmacy, but in the title of the first section of the collection you use apothecary. Apothecary is an archaic term for a person who gives someone medicine, much like a pharmacist does today. Why did you choose to use apothecary versus pharmacist here, but not in the title and vice versa?

message 12: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Hi Ladies, thanks for joining in!

Rosanna, I like your question about the title and I'm curious to hear Susan's response to it.

message 13: by C.A. (new)

C.A.  (clarue) | 6 comments The grouping of the pieces gave me an impression of a carefully curated (art) show, and I wonder as much about the poems that didn't make it in as those that did. There's a sense of so much more under the surface that fits in well with the surreal theme. I wonder if Susan would speak more about how organic (or not) the organizational process was??

message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Wow! You are all making me really happy that you read the book so carefully. I'll start with the poem on "Naming It" which does move through childhood to adulthood and a bit of surreal acceptance.

It's also true that I've always believed my name to be b-o-r-i-n-g and even went as far as to get a library card with a different name on it when I was in college. Not sure that could be done so easily today.

This was a very fun poem to write. I did a fair bit of research as to how Susan translates into different languages. I knew from personal experience that Susan was a popular name in Spanish, French, and Arabic. By the time I completed this poem I felt pretty happy with my international name. If any of you are writers this would be a great prompt: do some research on the origin of your name and how it correlates with names in different languages. Then write a poem!

message 15: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi C.A.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the Hannah Maynard sequence. These seem to be my "favorite" poems from the book -- although that might be different tomorrow. You mentioned that you have commented on those poems "elsewhere" can you let us know where that might be? I'd love to read your thoughts on them.

message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Rosanna,

If you follow this link you can see the painting by Max Lieberman that inspired the poem. And if you click on the link for "Dutch Courtyard" in the blog post you can listen to me reading the poem for a current exhibition "in the clouds" that has different poets, art critics, and writers commenting on the Founders Collection. Here it is: http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot....

message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments So many good questions here. And yes, quite a bit of "curation" goes into the selection of poems. I took out at least a half dozen poems that at one point were in the book. It was agonizing until I'd pulled the piece and then I felt exhilarated -- as if I had just lost some unneeded weight and found myself down a dress size. Poems that I cut fell into a few categories. Either the poem covered the same territory of another poem or the poem just went too far afield from the book's themes. A long time ago an editor in South Africa (where I was living) said to me: you will never regret the poems that you take out of a manuscript; you may well regret the ones that you include. There is a tendency towards very skinny books of poems these days -- writers want only their best work held up to public examination.

message 18: by Tia (new)

Tia Hudson | 1 comments I'm not sure if it's my favorite poem, but I really like "American History." It took me right back to Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal, Washington, and yet connected me as a teacher to the things that make up education today (for better or for worse), so it seems to me it does just what a poem is supposed to do.

I also like "Letter to M." Wanting to protect someone from all the things in life that you will really never be able to. The form of this poem interests me - the couplets, many of which flow to the next line or stanza and so carry me forward to something new while still holding the previous words. Beautiful!

message 19: by Nani1018 (new)

Nani1018 | 13 comments Hey Susan and everyone else! I am glad to be a part of this discussion. Like I posted earlier, I have been meaning to get back into reading more poetry, and this collection has definitely made miss it. I used to read a poem every night in college (nerd status), mostly the classics like Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.

Here are some curiosity questions about you, Susan. And I apologize if you have already answered these questions. I just skimmed through the discussion:

1) What made you decide to write poetry, and when did you know that you had a gift? I can tell you right now that I definitely do not have that gift haha!
2) What poets/poems do you enjoy reading?
3) Do you ever have writer's block with poetry? What is your writing process like?

Okay, so there are a lot of sub questions in there, I apologize.

As for my favorite poem, I loved "Naming It" as some other folks did. I wouldn't say that I never liked my name, but I sometimes used to wish that it was something else, mostly while I was in high school.

I love "Weathervane." I can definitely relate to the feelings expressed while reading a great book. Thanks again!

message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Tia,

So glad you liked "American History." It's one of the few poems in the book that came pretty easily. I wrote it in Ireland as a way to break out of writers block. The idea was just to please myself with something of my childhood. Perhaps taking all the pressure off allowed the poem more light and air. So glad you liked it!

message 21: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Nani,

So glad you enjoyed the poems. And even better, if Cloud Pharmacy brings your love of poetry back to you. I've a variety of poets that I like to read. Often I write about them on my blog Right now there are posts about Denise Levertov and W.S. Merwin. Two poets I've admired since I was just starting to write. As far as "knowing" I have a gift --- I don't believe that I do -- except perhaps the "gift" of hard work. Teachers never encouraged me, I was not the "top student" ever. Instead I just found that poetry was the way I could best express myself, the forming of poems like facets of a disco ball --- each small glint of light further illuminating the world.

message 22: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments As far as my favorite poem from the collection, I guess that would be like choosing a favorite child. Not a great idea! I will say that I'm most proud of the Hannah Maynard poems -- and perhaps -- just perhaps --my favorite poem would be "Hannah, Decanter, and Cloud." This was the last poem I wrote for the collection and I knew I needed a final poem for the Hannah Maynard sequence. I tried several approaches and tossed them away until I got that first line, " Age is still decanters on the table / the size of small chandeliers." And then I was off!

message 23: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments Hello everyone, and thank you Susan for this beautiful work. I apologize for being late to the party. I'm on the other side of the planet at the moment, so my timing is sometimes syncopated with the goings-on at home. I promise to make up for my tardiness, however, with verbiage. I have been chewing up this book the past few weeks and thoroughly enjoying it. I was big into poetry when I was young, but fell off the wagon for a while. The only poets I read were dead ones, though, so it was an entirely new experience to read poetry from a living, breathing human being who I can actually interact with through her poetry. I'll space out these posts, so you don't all get piled up in an avalanche of words.

Here's what I liked and questions I had about "Blue Grapes". Mind you, these are observations, and I may be totally off base. I'll love hearing your feedback, Susan, and everyone else.

One thing I liked about this poem is that the theme of the poem (the missing pieces of a life that a person is left without when someone close to them dies), shows up so clearly in the structure of the poem. The use of the dash in the inset lines shows a thought unfinished. There is no closure to the stanza. This seems to be the mental and emotional state you were trying to convey in the piece.

I love the last line "Then the dying leave you to yourself--to the girl dressed in black, suffused with commas, and question marks--How to write your one blue life?" For me, this showed you as a writer with so many connected thoughts (commas), but no answers (question marks).

I have three questions about this piece:

1.) When God returns your library books, is that God taking you home?

2.) You say the dying are trying to lure you out. Out of what?

3.) Blue grapes. Blue is a color that permeates your book. What does it signify for you?

4.) Is there a connection between blue grapes and a blue life? Is the life's ink made from pressed grapes?

message 24: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments @Rosanna I really enjoyed "Naming It" too. One thing it made me think about was that these women had no more choice over their name than Susan did, but they had a chance to add to it, fill it out, redefine it. We may not be happy with the place or gift-set or body-shape or gender or social role we are born into, but we can redefine what they mean. For example, a woman does not simply have to depend on a patriarchal system to define what she can and cannot accomplish with her life. Each of Susan's role models redefined what it meant to be a woman in their society, taking the reins of their lives and choosing what their name would mean for the generations to follow.

message 25: by C.A. (new)

C.A.  (clarue) | 6 comments Susan,

I've been looking everywhere this morning for those comments on the Maynard sequence. I was so struck by the poems when I first saw them on Common-place. Was discussing them with someone from Women's Poetry Listserv on their blog(??) I can't find them at the moment. Cyberspace!

But the substance of the discussion was about "knowledge gained by senses" which is roughly the Hebrew concept of da-ath, and it seems to me what you are trying all along to do in the book in understanding a life. It's also a Native American concept with many names in these languages and reminds me of some of Louise Erdrich's work, especially in Jacklight.

Yet, you have such a unique approach to them. I love that Lorca played a part in all this too! LOL. Feels like you are on the forefront of something something new is bursting forth...and that is what makes this book so exciting for me and hopefully for you.

message 26: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarahagerty) | 7 comments I cannot wait to read this book! I've ordered it and should have it by the end of the week. In the meantime, your comments are keeping me going, and making me want to read it more and more!

message 27: by Rosanna (new)

Rosanna (rosannabell) | 125 comments Links I found useful that I thought I would share:

Susan Rich reading “Dutch Courtyard”:

A picture of the painting that inspired Susan Rich’s poem “Abstract”:

message 28: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Thanks for sharing Rosanna!

And Cool to hear Barbara, glad you are looking forward to the read.

message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Rosanna,

Glad you liked "Dutch Courtyard." Let me make an important correction about the art work next to "Abstract." It had *nothing* to do with my poem and was just placed there by the editor. The painting I wrote on is in a private collection in Ireland!

message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Owen,

Thank you so much for your insightful comments and questions. Of course the questions you ask have no concrete answers. As a poet, I can't explain what blue means or why God is returning my library books. Not exactly. I don't mean to be difficult. I can say that blue is my favorite color. However it is not only a color. It is a state of mind, a type of music, the ocean and the sky. I love all the meanings and this is only the beginning of blue. It is also an ancient color meant only for royalty and religious ritual. There is indigo, ultramarine, cornflower, and azure. That gives you an idea!

message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Dear Everyone,

Here are a few links that may be useful

Interview on Blue Grapes and a reading of the poem

And a few more resources:

Here is an essay I wrote about my research on Hannah Maynard in the journal Common-Place. Please click on the Statement of Research.

You can also see one of Maynard's images

I've recently done a short piece on books that I've loved which is here

Hope you find something fun here! All best, Susan

message 32: by Susan (last edited Nov 19, 2014 01:28PM) (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments And then there was the question about the title ....

Titles are extremely important to me. A good title acts as a lens with which to view the entire collection. In fact a collection is more than the sum of its poems. If the book contains 56 poems then the book itself is the 57th poem. With a different title a reader would construct meaning differently. I hoped that Cloud Pharmacy would allow for a surreal sensibility from the beginning. A space where dreaming can become its own true self.

message 33: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments Hey Susan, thanks for your replies. As I said in my intro, I've never read poems which I could converse about with their authors.

I have to say I liked "The Self" as well. The structure of the poem perfectly mimics the way that the true self shows up in bursts by the short pops of lines that you put down on the page. And with a cameo of grit and glee, you reinforce this idea. By the phrase "a double-note brings her home again" do you mean a company of another self (another person truly in touch with their id)?

message 34: by Owen (new)

Owen Banner (owenbanner) | 2 comments There were a number of themes in "Date" that really caught my interest. In the intro, you contrast faith and science, but the emblematic regard for science represented in the NASA penny seems to hold the same mystical/superstitious qualities that the St. Christopher medal does.

Later, in the last stanzas, you show how the exploration of limitless ecstasy and corporeal geography leads us home, but there is a danger of trusting, exploring, and opening ourselves to one another as risky as space flight. It is planet colonization. I loved those concepts especially.

One question I have about this poem is that you say "kisses have launched..." it seems like the verb form should have been in the simple present: "kisses launch", because the rest of your story is in the simple present. What was the significance of choosing the simple perfect (have launched)? I only ask because it seems deliberate.

message 35: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hi Owen,

Thanks for such insightful comments. I'm really enjoying your questions as well as everyone else's. It's past midnight here in the Pacific Northwest so let me just say that "The Self" was one of the more wiggly poems to write. It's no exaggeration to say that it went through at least 25 different drafts. A "double-note" brings her home again can have multiple meanings. It can be that the self is, in fact, a doubling of identity --- an inner self and an outer one --- for one example. I think that's what I had in mind --- the self needs to come back to herself.

message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Hello Everyone,
We are almost at the end of the week and I've learned quite a bit from you about my book. I'd love to know if I can be of more help to you in terms of answering questions about publishing or the writing life. In addition to Cloud Pharmacy I also run a reading series in Seattle where I live and work one on one with poets. I also co-direct something called Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women -- now going into its 5th year. Whatever interests you...Let's just do one more push before it's over!

message 37: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments The reading of "First Date" makes me so happy. It is one thing to publish poems or books and hope people like your work. It is quite another thing when a reader -- as many of you have here -- offers so much insight and understanding of the poems --- and the psyche that wrote the poems. I'm deeply touched by your comments and excitement for the work.

To answer the question about "First Date," which was really a third date (it felt like the first committed date). The "kisses have launched" was an attempt at a continious present.

message 38: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
What last minute questions do you guy have for Susan? Get 'em in while we still have her :)

Susan, how did you settle on your publisher for Cloud Pharmacy?

message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Cloud Pharmacy is my 4th collection of poems with White Pine Press. However, there is a cool story on how I first connected with them 15 years ago.

Once upon a time I was living in South Africa working on a Fulbright concerning South African poets. I was trying to get an American publisher interested in the poet Ingrid de Kok. She is a fantastic poet and as of 2006 she is published in the US by Seven Stories Press. Seasonal Fires is her book. My publisher has told me I'm the only poet who has approached him on behalf of another poet. He was intrigued by this and took a second look at my work.

I don't think that's the only reason he took my book or has worked with me for 15 years, but I do think that being open to helping others ending up being helpful. It's an outcome I never could have predicted.

message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments THIS JUST IN!!!

There's an interview with me at The Huffington Post that has just been posted. You folks are the first to know! Here's the link:

message 41: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Awww, so sad to see participation stopped a few days ago. No last minute questions, guys?

Susan, I want to thank you so much for stopping by and taking our questions and adding your insight! I found it very interesting!

We were thrilled to have you hang out with us!!

message 42: by Susan (new)

Susan Rich | 18 comments Thanks, Lori and ALL of you who asked such great questions.

I enjoyed doing this and welcomed the conversation on names, on blue grapes, and "First Date."

I do have a request for you. Since you already have comments about CLOUD PHARMACY it would be super helpful if you wouldn't mind doing an Amazon or GoodReads review. It's a very helpful thing for books to get reviewed as the more reviews, the more attention the book gets in the alogrithim -- a word which I clearly can't quite spell but I know is important. All you need to do is cut and paste your comments together and that will work as a review. Many thanks for considering and I hope you enjoyed!

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