Last night, September 17, my fellow News & Notes writer Noah and I went to see traveling poet Jacqueline Suskin speak on her last stop of her tour to various colleges and universities. About 100 people were in attendance at the in the Arts and Journalism building for her endearing presentation about how she found her passion, then turned that passion into a fulfilling career.
For six years, Suskin has written poems for people on the street who approach her with a subject. She says after talking with the person for a little while, she writes a custom poem for them in usually about two minutes. With no set fee, Suskin makes her income off of the tips people give her in exchange for the poem.
More recently, Suskin has been hired for events like company gatherings and weddings, and even performed at New York fashion week!
To make her profession more interesting, Suskin writes all of her poems on an old typewriter. Actually, she owns multiple typewriters. She says she appreciates the lost art of the typewriter, and that lost art actually appeals to many people she meets while writing her poems.
Suskin’s story is an interesting one. She first was introduced to the art of impromptu poems when a man on the street was performing a similar art, and asked her if she would like to try. He then discovered that she was even better than he was, and she found her passion! She then lived in a cabin in the woods, where she worked with horses on a farm. She loved the small-town community and referred to herself as the “town poet.”
After refining her skills, she then moved to Los Angeles, not because she didn’t love her small town, but because she knew her talent was special and she knew she could do something bigger with it.
As English majors in the Honors College, Noah and I resonated with her feelings about writing, which she said has helped her “cure writer’s block and sadness.”
Her sentiment is one I think would resonate with most any Honors Student at Ball State, regardless of major. I often get the impression that our Honors program focuses on writing as a means of solving problems. Even students who aren’t English majors can relate to the idea of using writing as a means of expressing ideas to ourselves, and to others.
The idea of communicating to others is one of Suskin’s main motivations behind the Poem Store. She said her favorite part about her poems is the fact that she doesn’t save them for herself, but gives them away for others to benefit from them. She said when she writes poems for people, she makes them feel like they’re being seen, a feeling which is sometimes difficult to come by in today’s fast-paced world.
At the end of her presentation, she opened the floor for questions. Of course, someone in the audience asked her if she would write one of her poems for us. She then opened her typewriter and after asking the audience to yell out different ideas for topics, decided to write about dreams. We heard the clicking of the keys on her typewriter, and sure enough, two minutes later we had a poem which she read aloud!
Overall, Suskin gave me the impression that she is a genuine person who enjoys using her writing skills as a way to brighten the world. Her inviting presence in the room coupled with her unconventional experiences made her relatable, as well as motivational.
Suskin said she is inspired by many things. Although she enjoys Poem Store, she has a wide range of interests that she could fall back on if suddenly she doesn’t want to write anymore. She defines success as feeling good about what you’re doing, and her main goal in life is to inspire others in the same way that she has been inspired by books, authors, and art. And I believe she has achieved this goal; after listening to her story of how she found herself and her passion, both Noah and myself left feeling extremely inspired.
Note: Want to read more? Suskin is also the author of two books, The Collected and Go Ahead and Like It.