Friday, September 10, 2010

A Tiara for the Twentieth Century: A Book Review By Amber Rothrock

A Tiara for the Twentieth Century
By Suzanne Richardson Harvey
Fithian Press
ISBN: 978-1-56474-489-0

Suzanne Harvey writes words that embrace the reader, at times with a gentle hug and at others like a vice grip. The emotional detail and grittiness of her poetry will leave readers nodding their heads in agreement. She is a true writer, meaning she uses her life experiences to write poetry many can relate to; as can be seen in this excerpt from “Sins of Omission: Remembrance for a Birthday.”

Sometimes all you remember
Are the mistakes you made
The things you didn’t do
Those small sins
Of a mother’s omission
That can wear a hole in a child’s heart

Like the time
He cried from 10 till 2
You shut the nursery door
Till all the tears dried up
You wonder if they left
Some permanent desert in the heart

One poem I particularly like is “The Velvet Garrote.” It reminds me a lot of my mother and me. It displays the lengths a daughter will go to for her ailing mother. It also shows some slight bitterness to someone else (perhaps a son?) who enjoys the finer things in life while his mother is reaching the end of hers.

I feed mother broth
Scrub out the grime between her toes
Clean her crotch
Stick a Q-tip in her ear

You’d be coasting at anchor in Sausalito right now
Or maybe dipping escargot in spinach sauce on Fisherman’s Wharf
Perhaps you’re fondling a jade Buddha in Chinatown
Or worshipping the beach at Monterey

If you have read the works of Suzanne Harvey than you already know that she has a gift for bringing skeletons out of the closet and making them stand up and be counted for with elegancy. A Tiara for the Twentieth Century is a full length collection of her poems and a must have for anyone who enjoys her poetry.



Suzanne Richardson Harvey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1934 and married there in 1956. She was a member of the Academy of American Poets as well as a member of the National Council of Teachers of English. She passed away on Saturday, July 17, 2010, in Walnut Creek, California.

She received her B.A. from Mount Mercy College, now Carlow University; an M.A. from Northeastern University, with a thesis on George Meredith; and a Ph.D. from Tufts University, where she specialized in Elizabethan poetry and wrote a dissertation on Edmund Spenser.

After teaching at Pine Manor College and Tufts University in the Boston Area in Massachusetts, she and her family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where for almost two decades she lectured in the English Department at Stanford University. Nearly a decade of her time at Stanford was spent as a resident fellow (together with her husband) in an all-freshmen residence hall. They co-authored a book about this experience entitled Virtual Reality and the College Freshman: All Our Friends Are 18 (Alamo Trails Press, 1999).

While at Stanford, she also was a visiting lecturer in the English
Department at the University of California at Berkeley. For nearly a
decade, she regularly taught editorial workshops offered as part of the
curriculum for the Publishing Program at the University of California
Extension. Her teaching produced the volume A Functional Style: Logic and
the Art of Writing, which she used as a teaching device not only in her
university courses, but also outside the classroom at workshops for the
University of California Regents, for Bank of America executives, and at
Asilomar for the American Medical Writers Association. Upon retirement from Stanford in 1997, she remained active, lecturing for Emeritus College and for Diablo Valley College near her home in Alamo, California.

Her collected poetry has appeared under the title A Tiara for the Twentieth Century (Fithian Press, 2009), with individual poems published in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Austria. She is survived by her husband, Robert J. Harvey, cofounder and former chairman, CEO, and president of Thoratec Corporation, now in Pleasanton, California; and her three sons, Dennis, Brian, and James (Duke); in addition to five grandsons, Kevin, Sean, Gregory, Patrick, and Matthew.

No comments:

Post a Comment