Waking Up From the Dark Night of the Soul

The Forest Within

Poems by Sue Susman

Gatekeeper Press, 2018

I first heard of Sue Susman through her brother. William Susman is the composer of Scatter My Ashes, an orchestral work based on Sue’s poems (including some of the poems in this volume) and performed by OCTET.

The Forest Within isn’t the product of an English department, and Sue Susman, a clinical social worker, isn’t a member of any special avant garde school of poets. Rather she’s a deeply insightful human being with a grand capacity for self-examination — and self-healing.

Many of these poems manifest a startling metaphorical beauty. In “What Holds Us Up” she gives us a vivid representation of the experience of death among loved ones, a reminder that will spring to mind from now on every time I see a tree fallen against its fellows in the forest:


a tree has fallen,

silent in the arms

of loving companions . . .

Susman records those precious moments when she’s somehow managed to wipe her vision clean and experience raw reality in its significance, granting us the inner sense of it. At these times her poetry carries an echo of Rumi, refining an infinite beauty from within a crucible of finite pain. The poems make reference to depression, bereavement, loneliness, even sexual abuse. From the jarring “Return Me to Me:”

I want my body back.

Give it to me.

It’s mine.

I wasn’t looking when you slipped it out from under,

quiet as a ghost . . .

Whether or not the poet has endured the pain she describes is beside the point; she manages to masterfully portray the human predicament, using her own life events, certainly, but also reaching into the wellspring of common experience. Her images are mirrors in which we recognise our own suffering and its aftermath before being gently lead to our own personal salvation. From “Beauty Mark:”

. . .

Nothing is wasted or forgotten,

And tears are like footprints

leading out of a sea of grief and pain.


~Wanda Waterman



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