Susan Tichy

Susan Tichy

Susan Tichy

Emerita Faculty

poetry; war poetry; visual poetry; mixed form (prose & poetry); poetry's intersections with walking art and land art;

Poet Susan Tichy (MA, Univ. of Colorado, 1979) is the author of four volumes of poetry and, most recently, Trafficke, a mixed-genre book of poetry and historical narrative focused on her family's 200 years of slave-holding. Her poetry books include A Smell of Burning Starts the Day (Wesleyan); The Hands in Exile (Random House) which was selected for the National Poetry Series; Bone Pagoda (Ahsahta); and Gallowglass (Ahsahta), which received a bronze in Foreward Review's Book of the Year Awards, placing it as one of the top six small-press poetry books of 2010. Her poems, collaborations, and mixed-genre works have appeared in 42opus, Agni, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cerise Press, Chapman, Clade Song, Colorado Review, Copper Nickel, CutBank, Denver Quarterly, Fascicle, Feminist Studies, Five Fingers Review, Free Verse, Green Mountains Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Plumwood Mountain, Spacecraft Project,, and other journals. She has received numerous awards, including a fellowship from the NEA and the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize.

With Helen Frederick (Professor, School of Art), Susan Tichy for six years co-curated the annual Call & Response exhibit on campus, featuring collaborations between creative writers and visual artists. In 2013, Susan and Helen collaborated on three artist books for Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a book and broadside exhibition shown in Boston, New York, London, Cairo, and numerous other cities.


Current Research

In my newest book, The Avalanche Path in Summer (2019), I take my life-long experience of walking in mountains and stir into it a mix of ideas about mountains from the European and Chinese traditions. Poems from this collection have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Cerise Press, Clade Song, Colorado Review, Copper Nickel, Free Verse, iO, Plumwood Mountain (Australia), Spacecraft Projects,, Tupelo Quarterly, and others.

My previous book, Trafficke (2015), is a mosaic of verse, lyric prose, historical narrative, and quotation. Obsessively interrogating three hundred years of family history in Scotland and Maryland, Trafficke tracks and remixes questions of race and identity, fact and legend in a text where violence, beauty, and the powers of a written word clash and conspire around questions of loyalty and the bitter legacies of slavery. Though Trafficke is published, I continue to research my family's participation in the oppression of Africans and African Americans over the entire 200 years of slavery in our country.

The Avalanche Path in Summer will be followed by North | Rock | Edge, continuing my interest in geology, climate change, and the exploration of what our civilization now views as edge environments: mountains, coasts, islands, and seas, particularly the islands and shorelines of the North Atlantic.




Selected Publications

Tichy, Susan. Trafficke. Boise: Ahsahta Press, 2015.

Tichy, Susan. Gallowglass. Boise: Ahsahta Press, 2010.

Tichy, Susan. Bone Pagoda. Boise: Ahsahta Press, 2007.

Tichy, Susan. A Smell of Burning Starts the Day. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Tichy, Susan. The Hands in Exile. New York: Random House, 1983.

Grants and Fellowships

2019: Artist Residency, The Booth, Scalloway, Shetland, Scotland
2017: Artist Residency, Timespan Museum & Cultural Centre, Helmsdale, Scotland
2017: Faculty Research & Development Award
2015: Faculty Study Leave, Fall Semester
2014: Artist Residency, Sweeney's Bothy, Isle of Eigg, Scotland
2014, 2013, 2011: GMU Creative Awards
2011: Foreword Reviews Small Press Book of the Year, Bronze Award, for Gallowglass
2008, 2002: Residency Fellowships, Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers, Scotland
2007: Chad Walsh Prize, Beloit Poetry Journal, for "Stork"
2007: Runes Poetry Prize, for "Ice or Salt"
2006: Indiana Review Poetry Prize, for "Gallowglass"

Courses Taught

ENGH 346: 20th c. American Poetry
ENGH 356: Contemporary American Poetry
ENGH 391: Form of Poetry (BFA)
ENGH 396: Introduction to Creative Writing
ENGH 397: Poetry Writing
ENGH 494: Advanced Poetry Workshop
ENGH 497: Special Topics in Creative Writing: Bookish Beasts (visual poetry, erasure, book arts, procedural poetry)
ENGH 564: Form of Poetry (MFA)
ENGH 608: Craft Seminar (poetry): Marianne Moore & Lorine Niedecker
ENGH 608: Craft Seminar (poetry): Poetry from Research
ENGH 608/619: Book Beasts (visual poetry, erasure, book arts, procedural poetry)
ENGH 617: Poetry Writing Workshop
ENGH 619: Special Topics: Poetic Sequence & Collage
ENGH 660: Special Topics American Literature: various topics
ENGH 685: Special Topics, Schools & Movements: War Poetry
ENGH 685: Special Topics, Schools & Movements: Poetry from/as Research
ENGH 750: Advanced Poetry Workshop (a.k.a. Thesis Workshop)

Recent Presentations

Selected presentations:

July 2017: Timespan, Helmsdale, Scotland. "Both There & Here," a reading & poetics talk with folklorist & poet Margaret Yocom.

March, 2017: Northeast MLA Conference, Baltimore. "Violence & Silence," for panel "Susan Howe & the Politics of the Archive."

Feb, 2017: "Flying Words," group poetry reading and artists' talk, Fenwick Library, commemorating the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad.

Sept, 2016: Fall for the Book: Slavery & Beyond: Recovering History through Family Memory: In this discussion you meet three people—a black historian, a white journalist, and me, a white poet—who have used our family histories as gateways to historical reclamation. Hear why we have made a lifelong commitment to this work, how it has changed our lives, and why you might want to embark on a similar journey. With historian Anthony Cohen and journalist Karen Branan.

March, 2016: Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness: a panel addressing writing from privilege, with GMU alums Marcos L. Martinez and Sean Pears, and current MFA student Ben Brezner.

February 2016: A reading at The Writers' Center, Bethesda, MD, with Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, A Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth.

November 2015: A reading from Trafficke at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

October 2015: A reading at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and a presentation on Trafficke at the American Folklore Society's annual meeting, in Long Beach, California.

April 2015: Three readings at the AWP conference in Minneapolis--with my GMU poetry colleagues and alums, on Wednesday @5:00; with poets from Free Verse Press on Thursday @ 3:00; and with other Ahsahta Press poets on Saturday night @ 8pm.

March 2014: Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness, Washington, D.C. “Learning Race by Writing Race,” workshop co-leader with Martha Collins, follow-up to the roundtable of 2012.

March 2014: Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, Commemorative Reading, Busboys & Poets, Washington, D.C.

March 2013: Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Annual Conference, Boston. “Not Just Roots but Rhizomes,“ for panel “Research and Community Activism in Creative Writing.”

May 2012: World Fair Use Day, sponsored by Public Knowledge, The Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center, Washington, DC. “Poetry and Fair Use.”

March 2012: Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness, Washington, D.C. Roundtable Panelist, “White Poets Writing About Race: An Invitation to Conversation.”

May 2011: Ballad Singers’ Summit Workshop, Old Song Center, Voorheesville, NY. Invited folklorist.

In the Media


Poetry reading, Counterpath, Denver, July 2011.

Beloit Poetry Journal 60th Anniversary Reading, AWP, 2010. 


"In the 15th Chapter on Infinity, Try to Arrest One Detail," from The Avalanche Path in Summer, A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments.

Two poems from The Avalanche Path in Summer, Clade Song: "Small Volcano of a Mushroom, Pushing through Soil," "Pockets of Detail, Unsurrounded."

Introduction & selected poems from Bone Pagoda from reading at GMU, 19 February 2007.


An excerpt from Trafficke, & a short essay about influences, in the online journal Evening Will Come.

Poems from The Avalanche Path in Summer in the online journals Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics, Free Verse, Spacecraftprojects. Clade Song, & f/c in

Interviews: Cerise Press, How a Poem Happens, Twelve or Twenty Questions, & a conversation with Alec Finlay: Sweeney: Susan Tichy