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View the SIU Press Catalog
1st Edition
Susan B. A. Somers-Willet
Other Formats
Roam (E Book)
96 pages, 6 x 9

About the Book

Roam explores the loss of a parent to cancer and the resulting uprootedness that loss can create. In searching for a sense of home and belonging, this collection of free verse looks both inward and outward, to landscapes rural and urban, and speaks in haunting and musical lyrics. Unexpected voices emerge from history and myth—those of Joan of Arc, Ophelia, Circe, Daedalus and Icarus, and Achilles’ mother, Thetis—and mingle with the author’s own voice. From the naming of the first woman, Eve, to the naming of the first European child born in the Americas, Virginia Dare, these characters seek full houses and, instead, discover empty ones. In a voice that is southern, feminist, and unflinching in its assessments of the self, Susan B. A. Somers-Willett treats personal loss without ceremony or nostalgia. The poems of Roam look homeward while acknowledging that one can never return to such elusive comforts. Her lyrics reveal the dangers and delights of an ever-changing, ever-traveling sense of self.


Susan B. Anthony Somers-Willett teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities. Her poems have appeared in The Madison Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cream City Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. In 2005 she was selected as the winner of the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize.


“Susan Somers-Willett’s Roam is not so much a debut as a laying of claim: Poetry is her birthright by virtue of a spiritual bloodline that makes her the child of Whitman and Rukeyser. On these roads of our country, she tells us, the soul is a beautiful thing that can, after so much horror and mischief are unearthed, grid the land with compassion. Championing gnosis rather than decrying lost innocence, her poems balance wit and sobriety, lyricism and the spondees of truth. I am thrilled by the joy she conjures, and the grace of her accomplishment.”—Khaled Mattawa, author of Zodiac of Echoes

“There’s a breathtaking, sly intellect at work in the luscious poems of Roam. Susan B. A. Somers-Willett spins an elegant geography of vast terrains and intricate histories. Her poems make unexpected landings and linkages everywhere. And I’ll bet you want to keep reading “In Memory of a Girl” over and over again as long as you live. I do.”—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of You & Yours

“Deftly crafted and threaded with a fierce lyricism, Roam is Somers-Willett’s tour-de-force, a vibrant collection that will stamp the genre with her unflinching signature. A moving cycle of poems chronicling the trial of Joan of Arc provides the pulse for this volume, but the poet goes on to rip the veneer from a varied range of topics. A boxer’s wife bemoans shifts of mind and muscle. Even an interstate highway takes on voice. It’s immensely gratifying to see such a primal connection to the language, to sense light beneath each lean stanza, to witness one woman shout out from the muddle of cookie-cutter poetics. Roam is a revolution.” —Patricia Smith, author of Teahouse of the Almighty, a 2005 National Poetry Series selection

“Susan B. A. Somers-Willett is a poet of expansive vision, who travels the mindscape of memory with a profound intimacy, a keeper of distances, defining both the world of the commonplace and the sprawling terrain of uncharted human nature. Her compelling images in Roam are the work of a sorceress, haunting the senses with the lyric dance of language.”—James Ragan, author of Lusions and The Hunger Wall

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