Suzanne O’Hara Wadley Jaworski Rhodenbaugh is a poet, essayist and critic who lives in St. Louis. Born in Tampa, 1944, the fourth and last child of Georgia natives William Morrill Wadley, III, and Marguerite Douglas Wadley Martin. She’s the stepmother of a son and a daughter, and the birthmother of a daughter.
Received a BA in English from University of South Florida,1966. 1967-69, based in Atlanta, worked for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (“War on Poverty”) as a field representative to community action agencies and Head Start programs. The summer of 1969, farmwork as a volunteer on Kibbutz Ginegar, Israel. 1969-72, lived in Washington, D.C. and worked for poverty-related non-profits, including the Institute for the Study of Health and Society, where she wrote the guidebook and edited the book of readings for Consumer Participation in Health Services, A Curriculum. In 1972 published her essay “The Evolution of a White’s Black Consciousness” in Youth & Society. In 1974, earned an MPH in medical care administration from University of Michigan, after which she worked until early 1977 in Johnstown, PA for the United Mine Workers of America Health and Retirement Fund, then the payor and organizer of health services for mining families. She also researched and wrote a study of physician practice location decisions, presented to the 1983 Institute of the American Rural Health Association.
In 1976 she married Tom Rhodenbaugh and returned to the D.C. area to make a home for him and her stepchildren, and to write, consult part-time, and do neighborhood and political work in Takoma Park and Montgomery County, MD. In 1978 in the Appalachian journal Crossroads published her essay “Death by Computer and Contract: the UMWA Health and Retirement Fund,” on the implications of loss of the miners’ own health program, and substitution of commercial health insurance.
From 1984-90 she and her husband lived first in Fairfield, then in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College and taught part-time in colleges and in the Writing Tutorial by Mail of the Center for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins. Her critical thesis, The Figure of the Derelict in Contemporary Poetry, used Martin Buber’s I and Thou to look at how contemporary poets treat an image of a figure of suffering.
1990-99 they lived in Richmond, VA, where she served one year as writer-in-residence for a school district, and taught two more years in the Johns Hopkins program. She published “Catharine MacKinnon, May I Speak?” (1991) and “Illegitimacy and Stigma: Living with the Burn” (1995), both in Michigan Quarterly Review.
Her poetry chapbooks are A Gold Rain at Lonelyfarm (Heatherstone Press, 1989); Gardening Where the Land Remembers War (Two Herons Press, 1991); The Shine on Loss (Painted Bride Quarterly Chapbook Series, 1998); and Greatest Hits (Pudding House Publications, 2001).
Since 1999 she and Tom have lived in St. Louis. Her book Lick of Sense won the Marianne Moore Poetry Prize and was published by Helicon Nine Editions in 2001. Her second full-length book, The Whole Shebang, was published by WordTech Communications in 2010.
In 2012 she edited and published Sarah's Civil War, the 1859-1865 diary of Sarah Lois
In 2017 she published The Deepest South I've Gotten and Other Essays, a collection
that includes essays from 1971-2013 on people, places, politics and poetry.
She’s read in many venues, including the Women Poets at Barnard Series in New York, the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, and the James Wright Poetry Festival in Ohio. Her poems, essays, reviews and articles have been published in literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and general interest magazines. Her poem “Country Song: White Chenille” was set to music by composer Christopher Drobney.
Her literary papers, 1961-2017, are in the Special Collections of the University of South
Florida Library, Tampa, under Suzanne Wadley Jaworski Rhodenbaugh Papers. They
include books, chapbooks, publications in periodicals and anthologies, correspondence
with other writers, writing memorabilia, daybooks from Alaska, England and Russia
trips, and much else.
Her heroes are Hannah Arendt, Winston Churchill, Albert Hirschman and Mark Twain. She counts on her husband, her friends, The Lehrer Newshour and The New York Times. Her favorite word is “gone,” for both the sound and the truth of it.