WINNER OF THE 2021 OLEB BOOKS POETRY PRIZE
Face Up: A Collection of Outlaw Poems is a volume of unmistakable power. Defying social expectations, Suzanne Nielsen writes "I was born in the mid-fifties with fists for hands because / in utero / I knew life wasn't fooling around." As she explores recurrent themes of physical illness, depression, and addiction, she demonstrates self-awareness gleaned from a life lived fully.
Suzanne Nielsen's poems are peopled with wry survivors attending to their lives with purpose and humor. A newly sober friend will "jingle his medallion in his pocket / and mimic a canine sense of direction." An adult navigating clinical depression will "climb into bed wearing . . . street clothes that haven't seen the streets for weeks." Relationships form in unexpected ways. Bertha from the Midway "swore to sit on them, / and I swore to watch her back, / and we became best friends for those ten days." In these poems of tenderness and grit, sorrow is always accompanied by wonder.