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This week on the blog we are excited to feature Jacqueline Suskin of the Poem Store. You may recognize Jacqueline from the Hollywood Farmers Market or her pop-ups in the shop, where she sets up her portable Poem Store, and her Hermes Rocket typewriter, typing up poems on the spot for a word of her client's choice. We went to her note filled, and book brimmed home to talk poets, nature, and the greatness of a sun deck. Meet Jacqueline!
What about your current life would most surprise your younger self?
JS: I’ve never been one to look too far into the future. I started writing poetry when I was really little. When I got my degree in it, I didn’t think about how I’d create a job out of my writing, I just knew it would always be a part of my daily life. With that said, if you told my younger self that I’d be making a living writing poetry on demand with a manual typewriter, you better believe it would come as a surprise because it’s kind of an unheard of path to take!
Where's your favorite get away spot in LA?
JS: My favorite get away spot in LA is Topanga Canyon. There’s a hike I like to go on out there that overlooks the ocean. I drive out for the day and walk along the edge of the continent. At certain times of the year I’ll bring my wet suit and swim. I love to swim in the ocean. I also like to go up into Angeles Crest and hike.
What's your favorite way to spend a day off from work?
JS: I usually spend my days off catching up with friends. This year I developed a rigid writing schedule during the day and my Poem Store jobs are often at night. That leaves a few days off for adventures, breakfasts, porch hangs and day trips. I have a lot of really incredible friends in this city and I spend as much time with them as possible. I’m also a huge fan of the Korean Spa. I’ll go and spend the whole day there if I have the chance.
Who would you be honored to write a poem for?
JS: I’d be honored to write a poem for Mary Oliver. She’s my all time favorite poet. I’d also love to write a poem for Krista Tippett because she is a major inspiration and I think she’d really respond well to my writing process.
What are top three songs that you can always dance to?
JS: Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
Remember The Time by Michael Jackson
Grown Woman by Beyonce
Do you lean on intuition to write? How have you strengthened this muscle?
JS: Oh yes, the writing I do for Poem Store is highly intuitive. I’ve been typing poems for 7 years now and every time I’m out in public, working one on one with strangers, I’m strengthening this muscle. I have to feel what it is they’re feeling, I have to hear beyond their words and look into their depths in order to translate whatever it is that inspires them to request a poem. It’s the most psychically draining work that I’ve ever done, but my intuition continues to become sharper and sharper with every poem I write.
If you could reside anywhere happily for the rest of your life, where would it be?
JS: Probably somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I spent a lot of my life living in Humboldt County and I love it up there. I prefer solitude, forests, rivers, and mountains. I love Whidbey Island in Washington, too. Living on a piece of land off the grid is my ideal and I’ve experienced this lifestyle enough to know that I’m suited for it. I know I’ll do it again in this lifetime. Maybe I’ll settle in Topanga Canyon next? I’m also a huge fan of the desert and have lived in Joshua Tree a few times. It’s heaven out there. Somewhere silent. Somewhere wild. With all that said, I grew up in the Florida Keys and I’m an island child through and through. I can easily imagine ending up somewhere tropical, always in a bathing suit, living on a sailboat and fishing for my dinner.
Do you have any other creative outlets you exercise in?
JS: I’m a really into dancing. I dance all the time. I also like to sing and write songs. Recently I was asked to write songs for four women being honored by the Vital Voices program. I read about their inspirational lives and wrote lyrics to celebrate the incredible work they do in the world. What an amazing experience that was! Like Poem Store on another level! I worked with composers who created beautiful pieces of music to go along with my words. I was really blown away by how intuitive and exciting that process was for me.
What is most magic about poetry?
JS: Poetry has this unique power to express something vast in a concise way. In a single stanza, a poet has the ability to offer up an extraordinary amount of emotion through images and word choice alone. It’s the magic of succinct expression that really wows me. When I read a really fantastic poem, I feel that something nearly beyond words has been translated, made accessible, and offered up just for me. Poetry provides us with this service, this condensed pronouncement of everything that matters most.
What is a daily practice of yours that keeps you grounded?
JS: Every morning and every night I sit at my altar. I try to never miss this practice, even when I travel. Having this discipline allows me to center my thoughts, start my day with gratitude, settle into my purpose, and close the day with the same sense of thanks, prayer and consideration. It’s an ever-changing tradition. I always light a candle, I always burn some type of sacred scent, and yet my mantras shift as I do. I grow with it and adhere only to the act of showing up. It’s very simple and yet it has an extremely powerful effect on my life.
Thank you Jacqueline! Check out more of her work, and order a poem for yourself, here.