A Tribute to Susan Laughter Meyers
Compiled by Dave Manning
Susan Laughter Meyers was a welcoming presence to all and an enthusiastic supporter of other poets. She always had an eye for small details like line endings, the right sounds, the right phrase, not just in poetry, but in life. She had a gift of—and love of—words, spoken and written. The often-heard advice “if you want to get someone’s attention, whisper” was an apt description of her. Susan could write a poem, advise a friend, mentor a young poet, lead an organization, or defuse a crisis all with grace, wisdom, patience and persistence. She offered detailed, insightful and encouraging critiques of poems for first-time members of the North Carolina Poetry Society. She will be remembered as the elegant, soft-spoken woman who welcomed them to meetings at Weymouth.
Susan had the unique distinction of having served as President of both the North Carolina Poetry Society and the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Her distinguished record of quiet, unselfish service to the NCPS began in 1991 with her first position on the Board of Directors, as a Member-at Large, from 1994 to 1995, becoming Vice President in 1995. She played a key role in the planning, publication, and promotion of the anthology Word and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry, and in preparation of the Touring Theater Ensemble of North Carolina’s performance based on that anthology. She taught numerous workshops for the NCPS, for the Press 53 Gathering of Poets, and at other venues throughout the state. In 2007 the NCPS dedicated Pinesong, the annual anthology of award-winning poems, to Susan in recognition of her work for poets and poetry in North Carolina. She served as Secretary/Treasurer of the North Carolina Writers Conference in 2007, Vice-chair in 2008, and Chaired the Conference in 2009.
Among her many awards and honors, Susan’s poetry collection, Keep and Give Away, won the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize in 2005 and was published in 2006. She won first place in the South Carolina Review Poetry Contest and an international Merit Award from the Atlanta Review in 2005. Her chapbook, Lessons in Leaving, won the 1998 Persephone Press Book Award. She twice won Crucible’s Sam Ragan Poetry Prize and, in 1996, won the NCPS’s Thomas H. McDill Award. My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass was her second book, winning the 2012 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize. In 2103 she won the North Carolina Literary Review’s James Applewhite Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in the Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Tar River Poetry, and many other journals. In addition, she has taught writing workshops and classes and holds an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry) from Queens University of Charlotte.
Susan suffered a massive stroke and passed away on Sunday evening, June 25. Her poetry exemplifies her close observation of the natural world, often showing a different way of seeing the familiar. She wrote many love poems about her husband, Blue, and referred to him fondly as “my darlin’ Blue.” They had been married 41 years. For these loving remembrances we thank Sally Logan, Sally Buckner, Sharon Sharp, Pat Riviere-Seel, Barbara Presnell, and Mary Hutchins Harris. Perhaps most telling of our loss are these lines of tribute by fellow poets, Phebe Davidson, David Radavich, and Carol Peters.
for Susan Laughter Meyers
The difficulty is not so much that you’re gone
as that we never said goodbye,
never made plans to
get together in the near
future. There was always at least
a little time to bump into each other at some
reading, a book sale, those unplanned connects
proving something. Nothing much
of course, just a small
interaction we took for
grated. I remember a goldfinch hat,
a workshop table where we sat with no agenda
but the hashing of words on words. Not a single
commercial success in the group. That
precious presence of light
and air. Yesterday a turtle
popped like a hard-shelled balloon on
the road behind my widow’s house, and sooner
than soon a buzzard was there. Preening. Sleek.
Eating its fill. I want to see my friend again
again. I know I never will.
In memory of Susan Laughter Meyers
Every cycle the tide
and there is emptiness
and the remnants
of sea flourishing.
This time the waves
and you are not
as a ghost
whose spirit was
gracious as damask,
generous as mint.
The shore that always
looks the same
will never be still.
will go out
of bright flourishing.
Hear her inflection rise on Good
descend & hold on morning, then,
the half note rest before
the rest of her body subsides.
What color flows from hip
to chest to neck to brain?
Is it red? Or black? Or shine?