Political Awareness, Social Consciousness and Memory
in Susan Tichy's Poetry

Susan Tichy
BY Gushikawa

Susan Tichy lives life to the fullest. Besides writing and teaching, she holds a strong sense of belonging to nature, Scottish culture and community activism. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Maryland, she left college to work in a community clinic and an inner city high school before finishing her BA in 1975, at Goddard College in Vermont, and her MA at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1979. Her first book, The Hands in Exile (Random House, The National Poetry Series, 1983) was inspired by her four months’ stay on an Israeli kibbutz on the Golan Heights, where she also picked fruits, painted fences and herded cattle.

She married Vietnam combat veteran, Michael O’Hanlon (also an active mountaineer) in the early 1980s, and together, they built and lived in a cabin for six years — without electricity, running water or telephone — in a ghost town of the southern Colorado Rockies. Later, they also owned a bookstore in the nearest town, Westcliffe, and co-founded the world’s smallest Amnesty International group in 1983. Her second book, A Smell of Burning Starts the Day was published by Wesleyan University Press in 1988.

Since then, Tichy has taught at George Mason University, but never separates herself from the mountains. For more than a decade, she has been working on a book-length project, Trafficke: An Autobiography, a mixed-genre meditation on family myths, history, and words. In 2001, she embarked upon Bone Pagoda, revisiting her experiences and accounts of the Vietnam War, a war she considers to have shaped her life. Gallowglass, her new title, was just released from Ahsahta Press in March 2010. With San Isabel Land Protection Trust, she continues to contribute actively to the preservation efforts of open spaces and wildlife habitats.

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