Meet the Author of . . . Every Day Is a Poem

October 22, 2020

The Author

Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

The Book

Every Day Is A Poem Book

How do we deal with the heaviness of everyday living? When we are surrounded by uncertainty, distrust, and destruction, how do we sift through the chaos and enjoy being alive?

In Every Day Is a Poem, Jacqueline Suskin aims to answer these questions by using poetry as a tool for finding clarity and feeling relief. With provocative questions, writing practices, and mindset exercises, this celebrated poet shows you how to focus your senses, cultivate curiosity, and create your own document of the world’s beauty. Emphasizing that the personal is inextricable from the creative, Suskin offers specific instructions on how to make a map of your past and engage with your pain to write a healing poem.

 

Show us a day in your life.

I’m currently the Artist in Residence at Folklife Farm, where I spend my days writing, reading, teaching online and working in the garden. 

Rainbow

I wake up and take care of my body, dance, stretch, and harvest something for breakfast.

Blueberries

Then I usually work at my desk until late afternoon when I find my way back to the garden for more harvesting and chores.

When I’m working on a book, I’ll wake up around 4 am to write before anyone else is awake. I know that whenever I wake up in the dark with an idea, it’s my job as a poet to turn the light on and write it down. 

Workspace

With this schedule, my days are fluid; and although I make showing up at my desk a main priority, I never forget that it’s summer and there are rivers to swim in, flowers to smell, and berries to pick.  

Are you learning any new tricks or skills during this time (COVID)? What’s been hardest for you? What do you miss the most? Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

smelling flowers

During quarantine, I had to shut down the retreat program I was running at Folk Llife Farm. This was a sad shift, as we had folks signed up to stay for months in advance. Now that I’m not spending my time hosting or interacting with my local community in person, I’m engaging with my online community in a larger capacity. I miss sitting in front of my audience, writing for people after looking them in the eye, and I really miss browsing bookstores. I miss hugging my friends, having teatime and long conversations, and I miss going on tour. But I can’t complain. Poetry has its place in the world now more than ever. I’m here to translate the communal mood, to voice our collective pain, and find the beauty in all of it. My book will help others do this as well. And if there’s one thing COVID has taught me, it’s that we all need an outlet for our emotions, especially when we feel unseen and disconnected. Poetry is this outlet and we can still share it even if we can’t be with one another in person.

What is something about you that doesn’t make it into your author bio?

earth

I’m an ecstatic earth worshiper. Everything I do, every word I write, is attached to the idea that when my readers discover healing through my words, when they transform and become better by way of my work, they’ll in turn treat themselves, each other, and the earth better. This planet is a perfect gift and humans have ruined so much of it. Through my efforts as a poet, I hope to pay tribute to the earth and offer up ways for humans to change their relationship to our one and only home.

Photos of Jacqueline Suskin by James Adam Taylor

Photos around Folklife Farm by Jacqueline Suskin

Learn More

Every Day Is A Poem Book

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

Jacqueline Suskin

Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

Author photo © James Adam Taylor

Also By Author

Winter’s Reminder to Slow Down and Sink into Deep Re...

My constant reminder to myself all winter is to not push too hard. The essence of the season reminds me that I don’t have to document every aha moment that happens in these cold, quiet months. I don’t have to share every discovery or turn every insight into a poem. In the winter, I’m much more inclined to commune with the Divine and let those conversations remain private. This is the influence of winter, the way it teaches me to shift from an overly productive participant’s pace into a person with a battery that needs to plug in and recharge gradually in order to rise up refreshed for the act of creation.

Rest isn’t easy for us, and we have to be intentional about it. How will you ensure that rest is a central part of your winter schedule? A lot can be accomplished in these sleepy months of contemplation, but if you position rest as the central focus of your routine, you’ll emerge from this season with more endurance for the working days ahead of you.

What does an ideal period of rest look like for you?

Unwinding looks different for everyone, and you’ll need to spend some time making a list of ways you can actualize rest in your daily winter life.

Maybe once a week you wake up and immediately take a hot bath. Maybe you watch a movie in the middle of the day. Maybe you get under your electric blanket and read a book for an hour after lunch. Resting usually requires doing (or not doing) something that will break your routine of constant output. How can you convince yourself to pause and be leisurely?

You’ll have to choose activities that will force you to slow down. You’ll have to remind yourself that resting will expand your creative practice in the long run, even if it seems like the opposite is happening in the moment. Experiment with what works best for you.

Prompts from the Planet

What do plants and other animals do in the winter?

They go dormant. Seeds wait, inactive in the dark soil or stored away, safe and dry.

They harden, keep warm, and get slow. Some stop growing. Others sleep and dream.

Below ground, everything works anew, protective and focused on survival.

The plant world pauses its creation and changes its approach, waiting for the sun to return.

Remember, we are part of the same cycle.

Remember to ask yourself: What is the natural world up to right now? How does it include me?

This is an adapted excerpt from A Year in Practice: Seasonal Rituals and Prompts to Awaken Cycles of Creative Expression by Jacqueline Suskin.


Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

Author photo © James Adam Taylor

A Year in Practice

Learn More

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Sounds True

Jacqueline Suskin: Being an Artist for the Earth

In our modern world, many of us live predominantly out of sync with the rhythms and cycles of nature and the Earth. In her new book, A Year in Practice, Jacqueline Suskin offers readers a wealth of teachings, tools, and rituals to realign with the four seasons and the transitions between them for creative insight and inspiration. 

Take a listen as Tami Simon speaks with the celebrated poet and author about the rewards we reap through a return to harmony with our immediate natural surroundings and our larger planetary home, in this conversation on: following your own creative impulse; letting the experiment be the guide; the shift from creative practice to profession; guesswork and trust; the Earth and the seasons as ever-present muse; the many faces of devotion and meaning-making; remembering our connection to nature on a daily basis; the importance of carefully tending to transitional times; the benefits of cultivating a greater sense of embodiment; balancing hope and hopelessness; the sacred function of the poet; the healing power of intentional rest, and the “medicine of winter” so many of us need; introspection, silence, and solitude; making the “radical return” to nature’s cycles; the poem “Desert Bear” and the metaphor of hibernation; shedding what’s no longer needed; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Poetic Mindset Tip: Your Awe Can Be Connective

POETIC MINDSET TIP: YOUR AWE CAN BE CONNECTIVE

Try applying a mentality of awe when you’re interacting with someone who lives a life very different from yours. Let your awe be the inspiration for a connection. How did they come to believe something that makes you so uncomfortable? What is the root of their behavior? Maybe this person has a dissimilar political view. Maybe they live in a rural town, and you live in a city. Maybe they grew up practicing a particular religion, and you didn’t. These are the big facts that surround the difference between you, but maybe this contrast can be intriguing instead of off-putting? When I find myself on a disparate page from someone else, I try not to close up. I try to lean in to discovery. It’s frequently these occasions that surprise me the most and give me new insight.

When I let myself stay curious about another person’s point of view instead of shutting down, I’m challenged to see with a new lensand that feels creative. What would I have overlooked if I hadn’t led with a sense of reverential respect? For example, through Poem Store, I developed very unlikely friendships that are still a huge part of my life.

From a familial bond with a timber baron to a deep camaraderie with a wealthy businessman, I found myself open to all kinds of folks I might normally shut out if I weren’t in the mode of poetic openness.

quote

These relationships continue to teach me how to develop compassionate language and an availability for dialogue that focuses on similarities, respect, and humanity, as opposed to difference, disdain, and judgment.

Letting your interest in a person’s inner world outweigh your differences could have unifying results. Awe is often the key to the similarities we all share. It’s our curiosity that links us, and these connections can cause the largest transformations.

poem

Housemates

Pierre Talón lives

in the kitchen,

close to the kettle

with an invisible web.

His brothers and sisters

share the same name.

Long glass-like legs

and dark teardrop bodies.

Penelope is on the front porch,

blending with the potted plant,

her green abdomen longer each day, 

her hind legs like mechanical armor. 

Pierre Talón catches the flies

and Penelope reminds me

to pause, peering between blossoms. 

The spider never leaves, just changes 

corners and sizes, and dodges the steam 

when I make tea. The grasshopper 

greets me for months, until one day

she sheds her skin and leaves me

with a perfect paper version of herself.

This is an excerpt from Every Day Is A Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment by Jacqueline Suskin.

 

 

jacqueline suskinJacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

 

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You are invited to join them at Joanna’s kitchen table, and invited into a deeper sense of your belonging and love for our world.

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Listen to the first 15 minutes of this audio program:

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

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