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"Mystery is the engine that drives me."
~ Susan Elbe

Review of The Map of What Happened on Prairie Schooner Blog. Enormous gratitude to James Crews.

The Map of What Happened won the 2014 Julie Suk Prize from Jacar Press. Many thanks to Julie Suk, the judge. I'm honored to have been in the good company of all the finalists.

My new book The Map of What Happened is now available at:


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Also available at Barnes & Noble or Arcadia Books


"Rain from “a bruised-pear summer sky," a river’s “cold silver zipper,” and the “green, sexy smell of water” fill Susan Elbe’s sensuous poems in The Map of What Happened. Perhaps, because these poems are silky attempts to defy “rain, which erases everything” and to recover images of the past in order to recast them. Even a woman hemming dresses for money, maybe an aunt or mother or neighbor, glints with the watery image of a “fan of silver pins glittering between her lips/ as she knelt on the cold linoleum.” “I’m the one,” Elbe says, “whose laugh falls from the bridge,/ the last to run for cover/ when a hard rain pushes us toward home.” Whether the water is memory or tears or erotic danger, it fills these poems, vividly presenting moments of intimate, often exquisite, recovery." ~ Diane Wakoski

"Susan Elbe's 'Map' is an elegant work of starkly-hued reminiscence, a love letter to the city that raised her and an unflinching exploration of the littered personal landscape we all must travel. These deftly-crafted stanzas will conjure home for you--wherever that home is, whatever shape it has taken." ~ Patricia Smith, author of Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah and Blood Dazzler.

"The city itself--Chicago--is a dominant image in Susan Elbe's The Map of What Happened and in some of the poems one can actually hear echoes of Sandburg and an earlier Chicago poetry, a tradition Elbe revitalizes. ~ Stuart Dybek


Necessary Darks

the womb

but unerased

deep sleep

in December deeper sleep

the round-mouthed well

its long pull of water

your shadow

not the sun-thrown one
that dogs you

but this unseemly angel
brazen as a pistol
rude as root
made of hidden felonies
unglove its claw
unmuzzle its teeth
call it out
call it darkling

it is yours
rock it into light

First appeared in Borderland: where worlds arise out of touch, Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wisconsin, art installation and poetry reading with Lake Effect Poets, November 5, 2010 and was featured with Thomas Ferrella's photograph (for which the poem was written) in the Wisconsin Biennial – A Juried Show Sponsored by Wisconsin Visual Artists at the Anderson Arts Center in Kenosha, WI, June 26-August 7, 2011

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