"The music of Susan Cohen's poems is close to that of Coleman Hawkins, the jazz saxophonist who 'could make honey sting/ and gravel sing.' In poems about the world of family and the natural world, and the requirements for survival in either, Cohen writes with intelligence, clarity, and deep understanding, always following the drift and pull of the feelings." -- Chana Bloch, author of "Blood Honey"

"Susan Cohen's poetry is like 'the black-eyed seal/​ that breaks the surface, shiny/​ with news of its deeper life.' Her book, Throat Singing, is a hymn to nature, art, and history. With each page, I stepped further into the forest, the museum, on a fantastic rhythmic journey where a 'gray sky/​ is a stone any bird can enter.' Her delight in language play is wry, surprising, mixing pathos with humor, showing us those 'turkey vultures' with 'not one/​ existential theory passed between them.' In a world where 'ants swarm a sparrow's heart,' Cohen writes of luck, 'that lavish, bounding luck, that doggy grin.' We are lucky to have this book." -- Susan Browne, author of "Zephyr"

"Throat Singing is a collection intent on uncovering, with superb metaphor and acuity, the subtle everyday menaces and consolations of the world we live in. With a combination of artistry and investigative skill, Susan Cohen probes both life's domestic tenderness and its restless incongruities. Rivers are 'ferocious with silt.' Van Gogh's trees would 'run if they could.' Dogs know we're 'coming home to the wrong life.' Cohen's poems either deftly demonstrate the power of naming, or, as in 'At the Holocaust Museum,' find just the right narrative to acknowledge its inadequacy. Unstintingly, this book satisfies our quest for the poem that 'surfaces, re-surfaces, and keeps glistening'." -- Jeanne Wagner, author of "In The Body of Our Lives"

Throat Singing


(Diego Rivera, 1935
"The Flower Carrier")

It's him! In peasant whites and on all fours, pinned
under the weight of his towering wicker basket.
He stares at the floor of the museum like a mule,

this man who overlooked my childhood from a print
above my parents' bed. He's still burdened by blossoms
piled so high they shove his sombrero down over his brows.

As a girl, I admired the woman: how she leans
to adjust the basket that's fixed
to her man's back by a yellow sling.

Rivera draws my eye from the folds of the sling
to the folds in the woman's cream-colored shawl,
then upward to her lowered eyes.

My mother must have read love here
in all its colors, while my father saw
a laboring man knocked to his knees.

I can hear my father humming Spanish Civil War songs,
union hymns, choruses from battles
he would never risk his family to fight.

I can see my mother tugging up their bedspread,
securing its perfect daily crease with pillows,
as the painting keeps retelling old stories

about the loads of love: Of a man
who will never unshoulder his basket, of a woman
who will always be bending to help.

Of a wife who cannot keep herself from worrying
each knot tighter, a husband who wonders
how flowers turned heavy as stones.

from "Throat Singing"
originally in "Southern Poetry Review"

Poems in "Throat Singing" originally appeared in Alehouse, Atlanta Review, CALYX, California Quarterly, Comstock Review, Connecticut Review, Ekphrasis, New Millenium Writings, Nimrod, Oberon, Passager, Poet Lore, Poetry East, Poetry International, Puerto del Sol, River Styx, Seattle Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Spillway, and Tar River Poetry, as well as on the Broadsided website and Verse Daily. Some were reprinted in anthologies: Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women's Poetry (Scarlet Tanager Books), Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon Poetry), Mamas and Papas (City Works Press), Marin Poetry Center Anthology 2011, and From the Well of Living Waters (Kehilla Synagogue).

"Throat Singing," was originally titled "Dreaming on A Hard Mattress" and was a finalist for the 2010 Richard Snyder Publication Prize at Ashland Poetry Press, and for the ABZ First Book Contest.


David Martinson-Meadowhawk Prize Red Dragonfly Press; June 2016
WordTech Communications/Cherry Grove Collections;2012
Unfinished Monument Press;2005