June 10,1945-December 29,2010
When I went by the Armadillo a couple of days before Christmas, JC told me that Susan was at home sick. We had hugged on the opening day, but I had missed her during the week. Jay told me she was thinking of going to the Hospital. Since my partner is a physician, I gave him her cell phone number.
By Christmas Day, we learned that Susan was in St Davids.
"What's happening?" I asked Jay.
On Sunday, Susan was still talking about her condition, but under pretty heavy sedation. She told Jay that she felt like aliens had invaded her body. And indeed they had. Monday, the doctors put some stents in her kidneys hoping to reawaken them. By now she was becoming delirious. On Tuesday, her strong will and human force asserted itself. That evening, she was moved from IMC to a larger room on the fourth floor.
We brought in a small radio and we put in on KUT. Bill Bunch came by and he told her that he was missing her at the Springs. By Wednesday morning, Susan's walk on this earth was complete.
The daughter of William Bright, an oil executive, and Ann Safford, Susan Safford Bright was born in Pennsylvania on June 10th, 1945, just a few weeks after the fall of Nazi Germany, and two months before Hiroshima. She was raised on the left coast though. She was educated better than most of us, going both to Yale and to Stanford.
The first time I saw her was not in person but on video. Her husband to be, John Andrews (JC, Jay) was working on a video documentary of Austin Poets with Jim Norman, and they had come out to Space City Video to edit the tape.
I watched JC as he edited Susan's strong delivery. She was clearly a bird of a different feather. (She would hate me for saying that)
For the next 35 years, we raised our children , talked politics, and published together. Her publishing house, Plainview Press, published three of my books and more than 350 other works. Together, Susan and I managed to make Earthfamilyalpha the huge wealth of opinion, philosophy, poetry, and art that it is ... Over 1300 posts in four and a half years.
We would love to get a link from Truth Out or Crooks and Liars and watch the hits come in. We marveled how we could post something and then see readers from the other side of the globe reading our words an hour later. In the perfection of things, the Play in the Light post that I posted with word of her grave condition was picked up by Finn at Crooks and Liars. Her grave condition soon became national.
To say that Susan was a force would be a dent in her poetic nature....she was force.
Yet this piece from KXAN, like all the rest of us, can't resist saying it:
"Bright was a poet, publisher, activist, educator, mother, grandmother, friend and feminist. Since the 1970s, Bright was a "force of nature" among Austin's writers and activists. She authored 17 books of poetry; three won Austin Book Awards. Tirades and Evidence of Grace won the Violet Crown Award.
In 1990, Bright was selected as Woman of the Year by the Austin Women's Political caucus. For more than 30 years she was the editor and driving force behind the small, fiercely independent Plain View Press.
In her book Breathing Under Water and in many other works, Bright revealed herself to be the oracle of Barton Springs. At critical turning points in the struggle to save Barton Springs, Bright recited her work as testimony at public hearings before the Austin City Council.
In 2009 she recruited children and families to spring to the defense of Barton Springs' heritage trees. Her poem from that time, "Legend," concludes:
It is said the thirst of Earth’s
great trees calls water
from depths which are invisible
causing springs to flow.
Bright named one of the trees marked for removal, the one closest to the Philosopher's Rock statue at the front gate, the "Poet's Tree."
Michael Barnes writes in the Statesman:
"A good deal of her energy was devoted to the battle to protect Barton Springs, where she swam.
"Susan was the oracle of Barton Springs," said environmental activist Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance. "She knew the springs like no one else. Her poetry will guide community efforts to save the springs for decades to come."
Since the 1970s, Bright participated in activist causes for women, peace and the environment. She helped organize festivals, workshops and conferences, including the Women's Way Festival.
She was a member of the Women in Black movement, a group that gathered weekly at the south gate of the state Capitol after 9/11 to call for peace.
"Ours is not an organization," Bright said at the time. "It does not have a doctrine. Women in Black is merely an idea. We just want wars to stop.
She later helped the Coalition for Visible Ballots and the National Ballot Integrity Project, groups that advocated honest voting and discouraged electronic voting."
Susan Bright was a poet. A real poet. Once she told me that she tried and often did write a poem every day. She thought poetically. She saw the world as a poet. And she saw humankind's struggle with war and injustice as a great tragedy and loss of potential as only a poet sensibility can feel and see. I often introduced her as the real poet laureate of Texas... certainly of Austin.
When I first met Susan, she was pretty scary. She was a strong defender of women's rights and a stellar advocate for them. She was as serious an activist as I had known.
But as the years rolled by and we shared the lives of our children, and our similar views of the world and of the political universe, her softer, loving side revealed itself sometimes perhaps to a fault I would think. Over and over, her love for her son trumped her bright mind.
She loved her family deeply, and she loved Barton Springs.
The Polar Bears will honor her tomorrow.
As should we all.
SB was not just bright,
she was brilliant.
And in the best spirit of our human potential,
Her gifts have left earth
a smarter, more compassionate place,
like so many many others,
Will mourn her.
You can make your comments here or go to her site at Caringbridge.
The Susan Bright Memorial and Swim will be Sunday Jan. 16th at 11 AM at (and in) Barton Springs Pool in Austin Texas. It will be an open service. Afterwards, there will be a pot luck gathering in the Tree Court. Please bring your food and drinks and swimming wear (if you choose) and join us as we honor and remember Susan and the gifts of words she left for us.