“If it had been left up to me,” says Susan Hoover of her new book, “it would never have been done.” But publisher Dayl Wise of Post Traumatic Press didn’t leave it up to her. He encouraged Hoover to compile a book-length collection of her poetry, most of it never before published. At 3 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, 28 Tinker Street, Woodstock, The Mathematics of Disengagement makes its formal debut with readings by Hoover and fellow-poets.
Hoover spent her first five years in Montreal, where she learned to speak French from a nanny. The family then moved to Williamstown, Mass., home of Williams College and also of a level of sophistication not common to small cities. The Hoovers lived on a farm, although they weren’t farmers; her father was an inventor, her mother “center of the social hub of Williamstown. It was an interesting way to grow up.”
At an early age Hoover became obsessed with the guitar. Unsatisfied with early teachers, she taught herself and by the time she was ready for college she was practicing up to twelve hours a day. After getting a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado, she went back to Williamstown and realized she had no idea of what she wanted to do. After the summer she returned to Colorado and drove around the mountains, eventually finding an abandoned cabin on a dirt road which she managed to rent for $15 a month. For a while she supported herself as a folk-style singer-songwriter, using a combination of her writing and music talents, performing in small Colorado clubs. She also taught guitar, which became more of her focus. She moved to New York, where she taught guitar at the Mannes School of Music and the Guitar Study Center.
In New York, Hoover became serious about writing poetry. She joined Poets in Public Service and the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, through which she taught poetry all over the New York City area. In 1980 she rode her motorcycle up to Woodstock to visit friends she had met in the Gurdjieff movement. She liked the town enough to rent a cabin off Abbey Road, where she spent summers until 2004 when she moved to Woodstock permanently.
Although Hoover had published two poetry chapbooks in 1995 and 1997, she seldom sent poems to magazines and never had thoughts of another book. “I can’t bear the business end of self-promotion.” But when Wise and his wife Alison Koffler approached her to do a book, she completed a project of putting together material written over more than three decades. “If they hadn’t asked me,” she adds, “it would still be sitting on the desk.”
Asked to describe her material, Hoover says, “It has inner landscapes, but I avoid the pronoun ‘I.’ I want people reading it on some level to think of themselves as having written that poem.”
Listeners will be able to learn how they identify with Hoover’s landscapes at WAAM on June 25. Readers will include Hoover, Patricia Martin, Alison Koffler, Victoria Sullivan, Bruce Weber and possibly others. There is no admission charge, although donations to WAAM are welcomed and copies of the book will be available for sale and signing.