A Sense of Awe: Reflecting on the poetry and work of Jacqueline Suskin

Last week, I came across a short article that Jacqueline Suskin wrote for OneCommune.com. The article was called “Say Yes to Slow” and it was her reflection on the pace of her life and of society.  Suskin recognized that there is excitement about this pace but wondered about the cost?  As an artist, Suskin asked what would happen if she slowed down. Does her audience disappear?  Does her livelihood, one that is based on the spontaneous creation of poems, go away when she shifts into a more contemplative mindset?  Suskin consulted a friend about her fears and concerns.  Out of this conversation, a poem emerged.

Remember first that in these bodies
We are simply a matter 
Of cosmic reaction. Our days
In this form are limited
But we are time itself and infinite.
(Excerpt from “Slow” by Jacqueline Suskin)

Her conclusion is that her work as a poet takes time. It takes time to embrace the poetic mind and to create verse that moves people and changes lives.  It takes time because she is creating worlds of words that transcends the fast pace algorithms of social media. It is a world that is based in a foundation of “Awe”

A reminder to go slow: Photo Credit Jacqueline Suskin
A reminder to go slow: Photo Credit Jacqueline Suskin

Sense of Awe

In Every Day is A Poem, Suskin explains that awe lies at the heart of poetry.  It is the curiosity, the wonderment, and the amazement that you find in every day.  Awe is also the recognition of the impermanence of things and the “fleeting nature of our reality.(2) Awe is the ability to notice that everything is important. The bees are important, the trees are important, the snow is important, and you are important.

Cultivating awe is a practice that you can pursue and that will help you find meaning.  Suskin states that finding awe gives her the sensation of being alive.  When she embraces this sense of awe she can shift out of moments of despair and back into energy that allows her to be excited about the world around her. Suskin says, “There is no shortage of fascination in the human spirit. We were born to ask why. We are here to make up our own answers. This is the poetry of being alive.”(2) In other words, asking “why” is what makes us human, and exploring the world is what makes life fascinating. 

 “Awe is meant to overflow, and if we let it arrive on paper, we’ll be able to see it all around us that much more clearly”

Jacqueline Suskin(2)

Poetry As A Tool for Wellness

The clarity that can be brought on by trying to convert your awe into the written word can also be a point of interpersonal connection or individual wellness.  Suskin often talks about how early on in her experience with the Poetry Store she connected with a man who was a timber baron in the Pacific Northwest.  Suskin explains that through the process of writing poetry with this man, she was able to create a relationship that might not have existed otherwise.(3)  The poetic verse became the bridge that brought two distinct worlds together, and this connection brought opportunities for healing for the individuals and the community. 

But how does this healing happen?

Suskin proposes that poetry “helps us assimilate answers to life’s largest inquiries.”(4)  Suskin continues by stating that her role as a poet is “to celebrate the intensity of being alive, to illuminate the beauty in the gross tangle of it all.”(4) Through this celebration of life contained in her verses, people are heard, situations are explored, injustices are exposed, and we begin to heal. 

 “Poetry is a precise offering of reflection, it packs the macro into the micro, perfect for our short attention spans, great at getting the point across in as few words as possible”

Jacqueline Suskin(4)

But, Suskin doesn’t want to be the keeper of this healing. She wants to help others find their voice in this process.  Suskin explains:

“I think it’s important for me to unfold poetry into a pathway everyone can walk.  This is not about striving to be a great writer, but rather honing your ability to self-reflect. . . . It’s up to each of you to create what you will from whatever bits and pieces of inspiration you can uncover in your life. . .I find a freedom in that, a choice and a home that honors the deepest potential of poetry.”(4)

Therefore, finding your voice in poetry is what is important.  Finding your own way to write about your joys and struggles is important.  Finding you own path towards expression is the healing magic of poetry.

Pathways: A Poem By Jaqueline Suskin

About Jacqueline Suskin

To learn more about Jacquline Suskin’s work you can visit her website.  She is also has several books available.

The resources  referenced in this article are:

  1. Commusings: Say Yes to Slow by Jacqueline Suskin
  2. Every Day Is a Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment
  3. The Poetry of Life with Jacqueline Suskin; OneCommune.com
  4. Commusings: The Poetics of Healing with Jacqueline Suskin; OneCommune.com

Naturalist Weekly also has several curated book lists of poetry, haiku, and books featured on our blog. We are an affiliate of Bookshop.org and may receive a small commission if you purchase a book from Bookshop.org

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9 thoughts on “A Sense of Awe: Reflecting on the poetry and work of Jacqueline Suskin

Add yours

  1. “Cultivating awe” is a unique concept. Personally, I find this easier to do with regards to nature rather than people. I suppose this is due to the sheer beauty and non-judgmental aspect of the natural world. Writing haiku certainly ties nature and the human spirit together, but what I find in my own writing is more of a sense of despairing awe at how deeply humans can feel pain, hence why I write so many dark haiku and other forms of poetry. The healing aspect of poetry, for me, comes when I can find a way to merge human pain and nature’s ability to balance and rejuvenate and heal.

    This really stood out for me:

    “This is not about striving to be a great writer, but rather honing your ability to self-reflect. . . . It’s up to each of you to create what you will from whatever bits and pieces of inspiration you can uncover in your life. . .I find a freedom in that, a choice and a home that honors the deepest potential of poetry.”

    My inspirations may be dark and painful for much of my poetry, but these are the cards I’ve been dealt and I can use them to find my way to a better place. I find the best self-reflection occurs when we look at ourselves in the mirror of the natural world. Nature doesn’t lie. We see who we really are, and begin to understand our place in the universe.

    This was an intriguing read, Mark. Thanks for sharing Suskin’s work with us. Well done, good sir! 🙂

  2. Hi Mike, Thanks again for the thoughtful response to this piece. I really appreciate Suskin’s view of how poetry can give voice to our pains and struggles, and how we can use it to come together for the benefit of community. In one of the pieces that I read, or listened to, Suskin was talking about how one of her hopes was that through poetry people might be able to build a connection with the earth. Once they see themselves in the world, as a part of the world, then they will take care of the world. I am paraphrasing hear, but I think that was the point she was making. Thanks again for the thoughtful response! Talk soon,

  3. I remember a poem that went like this:

    I remember when you took the bus
    How you got it through the door.
    I wonder how you caught the last train.

    It sort of sneaks up on you before you realize what is being said.

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