The Good Life

By Susan Allison

The thing about good living

is that it happens, despite

plotting and planning, it happens

contrary to all devices. It happens

when you are renting the only room

you can afford and you somehow

catch the way the light is coming through

the broken dirty windows.

The door is open

and the wind blows in like balm.

It’s warm and you see the colors of the

faded gray frame of the door

against the rust-colored leaves

in the small patch of jungle

down by the alley.

The good life

comes through your eyes

and your ears and your skin,

the way a wild animal comes at you

when it is just curious.


Susan Allison (June 12, 1961 – May 15, 2018), the first Poet Laureate of Middletown, CT (2015-2018), was born in Derby, Connecticut and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Susan called poetry and wanderlust the two main constants in her life. After mountain-climbing and hitchhiking through East Africa, she returned to graduated from Wesleyan University (BA in African Studies) in 1985. After travel and starting a family, she opened an old and rare bookshop, Ibis Books & Gallery, in Middletown’s North End in 1989. In 1991 it converted to NEAR, Inc./The Buttonwood Tree, an arts and cultural performance space, that continues to be a hub of artistic and cultural activity.

Susan’s first book, The Ibis in The Buttonwood Tree, was published by a grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts in 1999.

Susan’s second book, Down By the Riverside Ways, was published by Antrim House Books, 2009. Annie Dillard calls it “ … the work of a talented poet.”  Rennie McQuilkin, Connecticut’s Poet Laureate (2015-2018) and publisher, says, “Susan Allison has done for Middletown, Connecticut, what Williams did for Paterson, New Jersey: she has seen past its pedestrian surface to its mythical underpinnings. She has written a book whose passion, honesty, and visceral style make it an important contribution to the world of poetry.”

Her next two books, Poet Laureate of Middletown Proclaimed and Provoked and be full, were published posthumously by Ibis Books, her self-publishing imprint. Poet Kate Rushin says “ … I see Susan Allison’s poetry as I see her: generous, down-to-earth, exuberant. Here is a poetry of real life, a poetry of encouragement – encouraging herself and all who choose to enter her sphere.”

Richard Blanco, author of Looking for the Gulf Motel, has this to say of be full – “Indeed, the poems of be full will fill your heart and mind with extraordinary moments from the seemingly ordinary landscapes of life, drawn with keen words and a passionate voice as soulful as it is honest.”

Susan lived in Middletown with her husband Stephan and son John.

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