"There is so much to admire in Susan Spear's Beyond All Bearing--her mastery both of free verse and of forms such as the pantoum, the triolet, the rondeau, the villanelle, and the sonnet; her precise delineations of the natural world; and her lively wit and playful humor. One cannot help but be profoundly moved . . . and although the underlying theme of loss is ever-present, the work is nonetheless suffused with faith, hope, grace, wisdom, and above all, love."
--Catherine Chandler, Winner of the Richard Wilbur award
"Susan Spear's new collection of poems, Beyond All Bearing, encompasses matters of compassion, love, and human loss with insight and grace. Several of them are fearlessly experimental . . . and many are admirably rendered in traditional forms. But it's what they affirm to the reader--'God is slow / and slowly tenders me the strength to go'--that tends to stop the heart."
--Marilyn L. Taylor, Wisconsin Poet Laureate
"Peaceful celebration and profound mourning, injury and sustaining revelation, faith and astounding beauty--they all live in Susan Spear's perfectly balanced poems. . . . Each page grips the reader with precise and commanding language in lines that compel us to resist the urge to look away from what we 'don't want to see' while commending us to moments of grace and consolation to help us live 'as we wander through this glacial grief.' . . . Beyond All Bearing brings us stunningly fresh, resilient, and deeply moving poems of daily life, love, and inconceivable loss that will not soon be forgotten."
--Ernest Hilbert, Author of Caligulan
"There could be no greater honor to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing than that Susan Spear, our first graduate, has now also published the first full-length poetry collection by any of our alumni. It is a memorable debut. Over the past decade, Spear has refined an extraordinary ability to address both the quotidian and the sacred, transforming them into reflections of each other with a power of parable rare in any age. Such is her art that throughout Beyond All Bearing the ordinary becomes more and more transfused with the divine, and the divine even enters into daily living. Despite moments of great pathos and humor, however, this movement of God and Man towards each other is anything but easy or obvious. Like all strong poets, Spear deeply understands the gulf between reality and love, and insists on including both, from the body of her own son, 'a thin young man / belt around his neck,' to a God who 'is slow / and slowly tenders me the strength to go.' The book thereby comes to embody both a closely observed texture of reality along with great leaps of faith, conjuring the very strongest poets in this tradition. Only a true poet in this vein could render even grief 'beautiful beyond all bearing.'"
--David J. Rothman, Editor, THINK: a JOURNAL OF Poetry, Criticism, and Reviews