Slate Roof Press

SEED CASE OF THE HEART by Susan Middleton

Seed Case of the Heart

Price: $11.00
Letterpress Cover
Handsewn Binding
ISBN: 978-0-9760643-4-3

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Once I held a nautilus
the size of a human heart,
but so light, the remains of its life
in the sea now just an elegant
curl of calcium. What genius grows love
from the inside out, building a
new chamber each year and walling
off the old ones? How can it bear
to move farther, always farther,
from the dark seed of its
original life?

Susan Middleton's poems sweep the arc of a life rooted in deep reverence for nature and human relationships. They burst from their careful "seed case," blown by passions of desire and betrayal into the clear air of forgiveness, solitude, and hope. Love is the driving wind in this moving, brilliantly crafted, courageous book.

-- Patricia Lee Lewis, A Kind of Yellow (poetry winner, Writer's Digest's International Competition of Self-Published Books)

A vigorous intelligence propels the best of Susan Middleton's poems, especially in the naming of love and intimations of loss. This naming includes some of her spiritual and tactile voyages: one within a nautilus shell; one beyond the oyster mushroom's mycelium; and another among dune grass, where "the wind / curls the tips to make a pencil compass, / each sandy arc almost a full circle."

Her most accomplished poems, however, provide the sharing of her intuitions regarding her experiences of love. In one poem, a lover is "a wide river, / always giving"; in another, her world is altered mythologically "when he called me his." When she is able to be “grateful for the courage to stand alone" in her "true north," though, we as readers can fully appreciate her delight in the piquant sensuality of "such stillness" that we are able to "smell the body / of the sweet red pepper as it fans apart / into aces, kings, and queens."

-- Wally Swist

These powerful poems combine the knowledge of a scientist with the heart of a poet, a woman determined to heal-- "I will be rock, too, cracking to heal / under slow knives of roots and ice" -- even as she celebrates her love affair with the natural world, her teacher, companion, and anchor, weaving carefully crafted, complex images of nature with those of relationships with mother, father, grandfather, and lovers.

In "Tansy" she writes, "I exult in powers of root, stalk, leaf, / the strength of old wisdom. You know / I have to leave you soon." In "Bridge of Flowers" she addresses her deceased mother: "All those hours kneeling in the garden.. / And the mountains of your heart-- / are they easier now to climb?"/ which soon will lapse into white, /sleeping ground." In "Old Red Oak" she writes, "With the patience of centuries you find me," and "Talk to me, tell me stories." The stories she hears are of "the lover I almost had," "the father I almost had," "the grandfather I almost had." And I can't get the poem "Shell" off my mind: "Once I held a nautilus / the size of a human heart, / but so light, the remains of its life / in the sea now just an elegant / curl of calcium. What genius grows love / from the inside out... ?"

This poet is discovering the way to healing: "Grace is finding an embryo / of forgiveness for the burnt / country of our time together," while always turning to nature with words that inform and nourish the reader's heart. Finally she turns to ponder a statement made by a religion professor when she "was slouching toward / twenty-one, certain of how the world was / and ought to be … " I want to quote this marvelous poem in its entirety, but that would be like spoiling the reader's pleasure by disclosing the end of a riveting mystery story.

-- Margaret Robison, The Naked Bear; Stroke; Red Creek


Susan Middleton lives in Ashfield, MA, where she edits books in the sciences and the arts as a freelancer. Her poems have appeared in a number of literary and environmental publications, including The Berkshire Review, Peregrine, Silkworm, The Comstock Review, and Sanctuary: The Journal of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, among others. In the summer of 2013 she won 2nd prize for a short story in Write Action’s 8th Annual Prose & Poetry Writing Contest. Since 1997 Susan has participated in writing workshops and peer-run groups based on the Amherst Writers & Artists method, and has led "In Our Nature" writing workshops since January 2013. For more information, contact Susan at