Monday, July 1, 2019


Today, my poet friends, we are chatting with one of the very first members at Poets United, Back In the Day, Susie Clevenger, who blogs at Confessions of a Laundry Goddess, Black Ink Howl, Susie’s Sentences, and her new blog, The Sound of Ink. Susie lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband. She has two daughters, of whom she is extremely proud. Let's chat, and see what she's been up to!

Sherry: Susie, it is so nice to be catching up with you. I love your long hair! Bring us up to date, kiddo. How are you and your family doing?

Susie: We are doing well, so glad to have 2018 behind us. Dawn is doing much better, and our youngest daughter, Carrie, is busy as ever with her job at The Art Colony. 



Charlie and I will have a busy schedule this summer with my 50th class reunion this month and summer tours with Mike Zito and his band.

Me and the Band

Sherry: Touring with a band! What fun! Tell us about that!

Susie: Mike Zito came into our lives late in 2007. Dawn at that point had already suffered years of autoimmune related illnesses, and it was taking an emotional and physical toll on my husband and I. We had always loved live music, so on a whim we decided to attend a local bar to hear Mike play so we could focus on something other than sickness. 

Well, we became instant fans. Shortly after that we became close friends. We now travel across the country with him whenever we can in whatever capacity he needs us. At times it is just as fans/family, but a good part of the time we work for him selling his merchandise. 

Although, I don't feel it is work. You can't put a price on joy. We call him our adopted son. His band members are part of our chosen family also. Music is healing. I am so thankful for that first evening we heard Mike. It was life changing.

Sherry: It sounds joyful indeed. Nothing like being involved in live music, and touring sounds like nothing but fun. 

Your latest book, Splinters, has just come out. Congratulations! Would you tell us a bit about it?

Susie: The book is co-written with the talented poet, Ben Ditmars. He approached me with the concept of writing a poetry collection with a target audience of young adults, but which would also appeal to readers much older. It is a poetic journey through childhood to adulthood. There are topics addressed in it from silly to serious. For example some of the poem titles are, Pimple Popper, Indoor Boy, Bra Capping, and Confused. There are some splinters that barely puncture the skin and there are others that go deep into a lifetime.

Sherry: What a wonderful concept! I hope lots of teens get to read it.

You are recently back from the Lucidity Retreat. Do tell us about it.

Susie at Lucidity

Susie: This was my third time to attend the retreat. Its location in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the perfect place for it. It has a strong writing/art community and exquisite scenery. Lucidity’s mission is to gather poets together to learn, participate in creative critique of their work, and open themselves to incredible life changing experiences.

This year’s featured lecturers were Nathan Brown and Dr. Charlotte Renk. Nathan is an author, songwriter, and an award winning poet, as well as Oklahoma’s Poet Laurette 2013 to 2014. He lives in Wimberley, Texas. Charlotte is an award winning poet who teaches English and Humanities at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens Texas.

I can’t properly express the gratitude I feel for having had the privilege of being able to sit with such talented poets and leaders, to feel their passion for poetry and gather knowledge on how to become a better writer.

 Susie and Group at Lucidity

Nathan Brown shared he has a ritual when he sits down to write. It begins with brewing coffee, preparing his mind to be open to creativity, and when he’s home, writing in the small space he’s personalized with items that have significant meaning to him. He writes every day. It doesn’t matter if it is good or not. Poetry won’t come if he hasn’t kept an open channel for it to speak. Nathan’s latest book is 100 Years, a poem for each year of life from 1 to 100.

An excerpt from 73- Thumb Twiddling

“So much time on his hands.
He doesn’t know what to do
with all these hours that pile up
like unanswered letters thrown on
to a desk where he no longer works.”

Charlotte Renk often writes about nature. She lives in a house in the woods with windowed walls without curtains. Whether she is outside or inside nature is always in full display. She is immersed in inspiration. In her latest book, The Great Turtle Heart (the Tao of Turtlism) she draws on biology, myth, folklore, history and literature to describe the journey of a box turtle.

An excerpt from Mobile Home

“When survival’s frenetic stress is too much,
the seeking, the getting, the struggle,
she remains unimpressed by mirages
of any kind”

Sherry:  It all sounds wonderful, Susie. What a privilege, to be there.

I adore a recent poem of yours, “Feathers Wild as Dandelion Seeds”. I would love to share it here, if I may.

I always dream of wings. There is within me the desire to fly, to feel the wind’s breath guiding me to where dreams roam wild, where feathers are ink and pen. I believe it is because I carry the weight of my mother’s lost dreams. I saw them in her eyes as she searched every face to see if she could find the soul who could read the stars she couldn’t translate into words. I’m not sure why she left them with me, but I feel them whenever poetry floats just beyond my reach, in the urgency to find my voice in silence.

Where are my wings,
green feathers wild
as dandelion seeds?
Let me climb the tallest oak
so I can hear the sky speak
of the sun’s love of the moon,
and feel the wind teach me
how to fly the grass I walk.
Take me where poetry nests
in the hungry heart of my muse.

Sherry: This is so lovely. I love poetry nesting in the heart of your muse. Are there two more poems you would like to share?

Too Close to the Edge
The midnight lake puts its lips
to my eyes and drinks every
starlight wish swimming in hazel.

Not satisfied with the brew of visions
it sends watery death into my lungs
to flood my last breath of July.

Thrashing in waves of lost I am tossed
the life preserver of 1:00 am and a cat
purring rescue across my chest.

Shaken I reach for pen and paper
beside my bed and pray my muse
has escaped the drowning pool of empty.

                        *  *  *

My Chair of Tears

Sunflowers weep brittle petals
from their frosted death mask,
and I beg spring to come and
take the funeral from my garden.
Winter has written so many
entries in its journal of bone chill
I breathe its story each morning.

Pain walks through my thighs
on the command of a barometer,
a stab here, a burn there…
a Pinocchio dance on legs
too stiff to react as human.

In my chair of tears I wonder
if this petrification will bring me
closer to humility or will I merely
live my own wasting one splinter at a time.

If not for love, I would make my own
journey to spring, but to pill myself
into eternity would break the heart
of a man who would bear my pain
if the universe would allow him.

Hope is truly fragile, a paper thin glass
one demon away from shattering.
I must have faith I’m a day closer
to a robin song, and not a hymn sung
where I am coffined in silence.

                *  *  *

Sherry: I love "I'm a day closer to robin song." When did you begin writing poems, Susie? What do you love about poetry?

Susie: I started writing poetry when I was fifteen. I love poetry because it helps me write out some of the thoughts that tumble through my head. My therapist once asked me I kept a journal as part of my therapy. At first I said no, but then I realized my poetry is my journal. I am empath and wild weed. Poetry is healing.

Sherry: How has blogging impacted your work and companioned your muse?

Susie: Blogging has made a huge impact. I came to the blogging world a stumbling, infant poet, and because of the influence of talented poets I’ve met here at Poets United and at Real Toads I have learned to walk with a bit of confidence I have something to say others might like to read. As far as my muse is concerned, she loves the prompts and images provided to inspire her to whisper words into my pen. The two things she doesn’t like are poetry forms and rhymes because she knows I’m not good at either.

Sherry: I beg to differ. But I find forms challenging, too. What other interests do you pursue when you aren’t writing? 

Susie: I began about a year a go designing and making jewelry pendants as well as sun catchers. I find it calming. I don’t worry or struggle for words when I am working with wire and beads. It is the free flow of creating that intrigues me.

Sherry: Your work is beautiful, Susie!


Available here       Available here         Available here

Susie: Oh, I forgot, I did an author fair May 18, and Carrie Thackeray Van Horn was also there. I am including the photo.

Author Fair

Sherry: It is so cool you and Carrie were at the same event! How wonderful! Two of our first members!

Susie: Also I have a new poetry blog, The Sound  of Ink. 

Confessions of a Laundry Goddess  is the grand dame of my work, but I just felt I needed another one. :)  It is brand new with a couple of poems, but it will be growing. 

Sherry: Yay! We'll be watching. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Susie: Gratitude, I don’t think I can say it enough. I came upon Poets United quite by accident. I had written a poetry blog for over a year with only one man reading it. I knew it wasn’t very good. I wanted to learn, find better ways to express myself through poetry. 

Dear poets, thank you for having patience as I grew, and continue to grow. You have been part of my healing path after a brain injury in 2006. There were parts of my memory erased. I once did scrapbooking. That is what I am told any way. I opened a bedroom closet door where the entire shelf was filled with decorative paper, albums, etc. I turned to Charlie and said, “Who does this?” Poetry returned when I so desperately needed it.

Sherry: We are so happy that it did, and we are the beneficiaries. Thank you, Susie, for this wonderful update. And for your long participation at Poets United.

Well, my friends, wasn't this uplifting? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. Indeed, Susie, you have part of the poetry sphere for a long time. And I enjoyed reading about where the journey has taken you. Congratulations on your recent book. What fun to tour with a band. I enjoyed reading about Nathan Brown and his daily writing ritual. (We all should do that!) "My Chair of Tears" was a very poignant and heartfelt poem. And your jewelry is beautiful. Thank you, Sherry, for again seeking out someone who has had a long history with PU. I enjoyed the read!

    1. Thank you Mary. I have my own sort of ritual. I always write in the same spot at home, and on the right side of my desk is a changing stack of poetry books. It is a visual to place myself among poets to feel their creative energy through their work.

  2. We do love catching up with our earliest members, from Back In the Day. We wrote with such excitement and energy then. Now we have settled into a rhythm that is paced for the Long Haul. Smiles. I am happy you enjoyed it, Mary, and Susie, thank you for letting us catch up to you in your busy life.

  3. Susie, you are such a brilliant and accomplished poet, I am astounded to think that you had anything to learn from Poets United when you joined! Congratulations on the
    new book, and many thanks to you and Sherry for this interview. I loved reading about your journeys with the band, and I too think your jewellery is beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much Rosemary. I have learned so much from you and all I've had the privilege to read in the pantry. Each one has their own unique voice and helped me find mine. Also it has lead me to other artistic expressions in my photography and making jewelry.

  4. Another great blog of the week. I enjoyed reading this chat. Susie your poetry is always wonderful.

    Your jewelry is beautiful. Congrats on the book!

    May you have a safe and fun summer traveling with the band.

  5. Fabulous that you can tour with a band!! I love the concept of keeping a channel open for the poetry to come. Thanks for sharing your poetry and beautiful jewellery designs, Susie.

  6. Thank you so much for featuring Susie this week, Sherry!πŸ’ž First of all, a hearty congratulations on your recent book, Susie! I loved reading about your journey with the band and am smiling with joy for the opportunity to learn more about you. Mondays are always the best here at Poets United and I am so grateful to Sherry for everything that she does.

    I have long been a fan of your poetry!πŸ’ž In fact you are one of the many people whose writing inspires me and makes me fall in love with poetry. I have learned a great deal from you 😊 I love "Feathers Wild As Dandelion Seeds," and the emotions your poem evokes especially "Let me climb the tallest oak so I can hear the sky speak." Woww!πŸ’ž

    Also, your jewellery is beautiful!! Sending you lots of love, best wishes and prayers. You are an awesome Poet! xo

    1. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me to know I’ve inspired someone to create. Each of us has a creative untapped world waiting to be explored.

  7. This is my first day back on-line for a few weeks. I’m delighted to see, while catching up on everything, that Susie is being interviewed by Sherry today! Congratulations on the publication of Splinters, Susie. I loved the photos of you and your girls and enjoyed both the interview and the featured poems. I especially enjoyed ‘Feathers Wild as Dandelion Seeds’ and ‘Too Close to the Edge’.
    I'm not a jewellery fan normally, but I love your designs.

    1. Thank You so much. I am really enjoying exploring my creativity.

  8. Wonderful interview! And Susie, congratulations on your book. Your jewelry designs are so unique and lovely.

    1. Thank you. I have written several poems with Ben and this was our first venture into co-writing a book.

  9. A most enjoyable interview, thank you bot, Sherry and Susie. Such a talented lady, great jewellery,

  10. I have had the pleasure of knowing Susie and her beautiful poetry since toward the beginning of Poets United. I have always loved her poetic voice, and have had the honor of being with her at the Author Fair in Houston area like she mentioned and she has come to our writer’s group for our Library. She is a fascinating poet with an amazing story, and I am so glad to see her featured here. I truly love two of her books I have bought and adore the poem, “Feathers Wild as Dandelion Seeds”! “Splinters” will be next on my list. Thank you, Sherry, for all you do to give us a deeper glimpse into each other’s lives.

    1. Thank you so much. It’s wonderful we live so close together!

  11. What a lovely share. You live such a fascinating, creative life, Susie. Thanks, once again, for making these interviews happen, Sherry, and helping our Poetry Community learn a little bit about the Poets behind the poetry we so enjoy reading.

    1. Thank you.. I’m always exploring my creative side.

  12. This is such a wonderful read. Music, poetry and's platter seems so beautifully full. Love the poems shared here. Congratulations on your recent book Susie. And those jewelry pendants are fabulous!

    1. Thank You! Art is healing and exploring the art in me has been quite a journey.

  13. Nice to read a little more of Susie's words and impressions here. I met her first at facebook. Luv the jewellery detour. Keep up the good work


  14. Susie, I just squealed at the touring with the band image. How fantastic! I bet many poems will be born out of the trip.


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