Jacqueline Suskin: Every Day Is a Poem

November 5, 2020

Jacqueline Suskin is a poet and author whose published titles include Help in the Dark Season and The Edge of the Continent trilogy. With Sounds True, she has written a new book titled Every Day Is a Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Jacqueline about the soulfulness of poetry and the internal changes one goes through while writing it. They discuss Jacqueline’s affinity for working with manual typewriters and the success of her ongoing Poem Store project. Jacqueline and Tami talk about the poetic impulse that is the root of true change, as well as overcoming the inner critic’s desire to stifle creative expression. Finally, Tami considers the “trance state” of creative flow and Jacqueline shares a spontaneous poem for the audience.

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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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

 

Let the Dark Places Be Teachers

FIND THE SOURCE

This is a tender exercise, a tracing of pain, the path back to the deepest wound. For myself, a huge hurt that I carry is often the source of great realizations and growth. I’ve worked with many different types of therapy for years to figure out where my pain stems from, and my curiosity has been my greatest guide in this effort. I want to know why I am the way I am, and my trauma informs so much of my mindset. Do you know where your pain comes from? Does it point back to a certain occurrence? Do you have only a vague idea, a slight memory, that seems to be the source? What do you do to familiarize yourself with the hurt you carry?

quote 1

There are countless, well-trusted methodologies to help us become acquainted with our pain, and when we dig into this work, the cave of our understanding becomes incredibly deep.

I like to turn my pain into a guide. I follow its directions, meditating on where it all began. It’s at these starting points where I find the most potent feelings. My heartbreak from a failed relationship will often give me a chance to let out my sadness in verse, but not before I try to unpack the whole story. Only when I attempt to understand the many aspects of this failed relationship can I fully feel it and pay tribute to it. I begin this kind of investigation by rambling in my journal. Then, if I feel inclined, I might pull the heart of my understanding into poetic form. I recently wrote a book of poetry called Help in the Dark Season, which focuses on my childhood trauma, the way it affects my adult relationships, and the modes of healing that have helped me grow. Writing this book was extremely hard, but after I finished, I felt like I’d turned coal into gold. I pulled back the curtain inside myself and let light do its thing. Now I not only get to feel the inner effects of my work but I’m also able to witness the importance of sharing this book with others, the way my words act as a key to unlock their personal process of healing. The result of this revealing has been an honesty and a newness that I couldn’t have reached without the alchemy of writing poetry.

I urge you to do this hard work with your trauma, if you’re able. Give yourself permission to move into the realm of blame. Maybe move beyond it toward forgiveness.

quote 2

Our traumas create our fears, and our responses to these fears can be as poetic and beautiful as we make them. Let your pain be a source of inspiration, turn this heavy load into poetry, own it, use it, and take as much from it now as it has taken from you in the past.

Close your eyes and meditate on the hidden ache you carry. I like to start with my childhood because that’s what makes sense for me, but you can start anywhere along your timeline. Do you see any images attached to your discomfort? Can you try and put words to your grief and your loss? Who hurt you? What was their childhood like? Why did they do what they did? Make use of the pain of being alive. See the universality in whatever caused you harm, and focus on the connection to others who have survived similar experiences. When I sit with my wounds, I find my resilience, and that makes me want to linger there, gather up the lessons left in the aftermath, and use them for my own creation. Writing about my pain enables me to claim it as my own, and this ownership is empowering.

quote 3

How can you show your reader your personal methods of self-care in a poetic way? Maybe start by writing a list of poems or even song lyrics that have been healing for you in the past. I have poems dog-eared and underlined in every book on my shelf, and I’ll pull them out in a moment of need. They’re my reminders that yes, it is indeed hard to be alive for everyone.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover

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

Jacqueline Suskin: Every Day Is a Poem

Jacqueline Suskin is a poet and author whose published titles include Help in the Dark Season and The Edge of the Continent trilogy. With Sounds True, she has written a new book titled Every Day Is a Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Jacqueline about the soulfulness of poetry and the internal changes one goes through while writing it. They discuss Jacqueline’s affinity for working with manual typewriters and the success of her ongoing Poem Store project. Jacqueline and Tami talk about the poetic impulse that is the root of true change, as well as overcoming the inner critic’s desire to stifle creative expression. Finally, Tami considers the “trance state” of creative flow and Jacqueline shares a spontaneous poem for the audience.

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