On October 12th, Suzannah Gilman had a book launch party for her first book of poetry titled, "I will Meet You at the River" at Quantum Leap Winery (1312 Wilfred Dr, Orlando, FL.) Suzannah was born in California and grew up in Florida. She attended Rollins College while raising four children, graduating with honors. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and is a licensed attorney. She has published poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for poetry. " I Will Meet You at the River" is her first book. She and Billy Collins, who served as U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003, have been together for years.
I arrived a bit early and began sketching the winery. A huge room out back had large barrels of wine stacked to the ceiling. Suzannah and Billy arrived with cheese platters that they set up on the bar. I had met the couple once at a folk music parking lot pickin' session behind the Twisty Treat in Ochoe Florida. Suzannah seemed a bit nervous and warm but soon the room was full of friends and supporters. I didn't attempt to sketch the whole crowd. I got to meet her sons, one of whom is an artist himself.
I particularly liked one poem titled, "How Dinner Got Cold", that was about a couple preparing dinner together. There was the intimacy of the enclosed space as they brushed shoulders and he instinctively closed a cabinet for her. It reminded me of a scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton prepared a live lobster. By the time the meal was ready the couple had already satiated something much more than hunger.
Another poem, "On Living With a Famous Poet," made Billy a bit nervous. "Jocelyn Bartkevicius was there, and she's the editor of The Florida Review, where it was published, so I HAD to read it!" explained Suzannah. The poem described a young woman who idolized the famous poet and desperately wanted the shared intimacy of having her words read. Later that month I saw Billy on "The Colbert Report" where he joked with the host and they read a poem together. You don't always get that much culture on prime time TV. Suzannah said, "I did enjoy that party, oh yes I did. It was the people, as I said, who just blew me away by showing up and supporting me. As good a feeling as finding out I was going to have a chapbook published."
- George Bilgere, author of THE WHITE MUSEUM