Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being

Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being



About the book

Imagining how the philosopher imagines is one way to read and learn a philosophy and is especially suited to the practice of poetry. Sometimes poetry has the ability to be the reality when philosophy can only describe it. Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being marches through the seasons as Jia-li, a mountain woman, and a girl philosopher inhabit their cosmos, sluicing philosophy of antiquity through twenty-first century existence. They imagine the world as the sages may or may not have.

"Vectoring through the personae of a Chinese girl and a Greek philosopher, Susan Andrews Grace's Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being imagines a new Gnoticism in a delightfully accessible poetic narrative. This long poem posits anew the old meditation on "the one and the many" through Grace's masterful poetic skill at sustaining the music in language while allowing some reflective distance from the disillusionments of the present. This is thought-provoking poetry, beautifully composed and close enough to touch." ---Fred Wah

"'The Good is gentle, mild, and very delicate': Susan Andrews Grace opens her new collection, Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being, with these words of Plotinus, which orient her poems within an ethics and aesthetics of compassion and delicacy. The philosophies of Plotinus and Laozi are re-imagined by a 'girl philosopher' attentive to nature's changes in tulip, pomegranate, water, snow, pine tree, grass---in red of blood-birth, moon and cells. Susan Andrews Grace's work in fabric arts is evident in motifs of embroidery, sewing, and knitting, in silks the colour of sky. In these poems, beautiful and 'bold [in]intellection,' poetry and philosophy converse. They are a delight to read and reread." ---Hilary Clark

About the author

Grace, Susan Andrews

Susan Andrews Grace is the author of four books of poetry, Love and Tribal Baseball (BuschekBooks, 2007), Flesh, A Naked Dress (Hagios Press, 2006), Ferry Woman's History of the World (Coteau Books, 1998), and Water is the First World (Coteau Books, 1991) She is also a visual artist. Her mixed media works conceptually echo and honour textile traditions. Andrews Grace’s writing reflects feminine consciousness and mucks around in the beautiful dark. She teaches creative writing in Nelson, BC, where she has lived since 2001.


Soul must be free to conquer existence,
gather up her full taffeta skirt and
whisper carmine history.
Soul makes life long whether the body lives or not.
Jia-li celebrates yellow mats of October leaves,
rains which pelt and bounce on roadways.
Sages may be seamstresses, gather children and men around them
ruffling change, wearing bracelets.

Laozi leaves town, sure that everything carries yin
on its shoulder and yang in its arms, and this
secret harmony: dialectic of the one and the many. 

Plotinus, if he were on the road with Laozi might point to the grassy
roadside, the cow in the field and to the venerable Laozi as well
to say You are right and you are wrong. There is no one and many
there is only one-many and so you Laozi are much bigger than you think:
you are more, just as the cow and the grass are more. There is only one soul
all souls present in us.
Laozi would beg his pardon and say But that is what I said already

flicking a fly from his shoulder with his long baby fingernail.
And they’d sit down in the dusty road to talk some more
or until forced off the byway, whichever came first. Plotinus
happy at long last, to have met the east.

The philosopher knows our bodies are crucibles of dust,
soul their spark of belonging.
Between god and no-god is safety of the universe.
Nothing that belongs to the all can be discarded by it, says Plotinus.
The universe is trustworthy.
An insect eating her way through the magnolia leaves and a girl
belong to this magnificence: the garden shone upon
by a red sun through smoky skies, by a low-hung
white moon, and by striped Leonid showers.
Despair sits on the edge of the bed
feet dangling midnight and cold
mountain air cools the house
for another hot day tomorrow.


Before I can judge a book of poems, I must meet it on its own ground.  Fortunately, Susan Andrews Grace, author of five books of poetry and essays  about visual art, provides an introduction to her latest book, Philosopher at the… >>

— Bill Neumire Vallum

Laozi and Plotinus, two great ancient philosophers, had much in common. Their works, the eastern Daodejing and the western Neo-Platonism respectively, connect in such a way that when a world map is folded, in the shadowy creases, their philosophies meet… >>

— Steve Locke Prairie books NOW

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