by Ana Stjelja
Suzanne Newman is a Christian poet who hopes to encourage others in their faith, including those who are going through similar struggles in life to her, such as cancer, depression, grief, etc.
However dark the theme of her poetry may be, Suzanne always shows how God’s light is there with us in any and every situation.
A born-again Christian, she lives in England with her family. In a heart-to-heart interview with our Interviews Editor Ana Stjelja, Suzanne discusses her poetry, faith, and beyond.
When we take a look at your FB page, we can see that you declare yourself as a “Christian poet”. When did you first start writing poetry inspired by Christianity? Do you have favorite poets or poetic movements?
I label myself as a “Christian poet” because that’s 100% of my poetry — I don’t write anything that hasn’t got a Christian message or theme to it. The Lord put writing poetry on my heart in 2018, following a harsh cancer journey and subsequent clinical depression brought on by the chemotherapy drugs.
I had no personal intention of starting to write poetry, it just sort of occurred! I immediately found it extremely cathartic and thought, at that time, that this was its sole purpose. However, over the following months I increasingly found that I could send my poems to friends who were struggling with similar things (i.e. cancer treatment, depression, anxiety, grief etc) and they could connect to the words and it somehow helped and encouraged them. I was surprised by this.
I had more than one person tell me that I should put these poems into a book, so they could encourage a wider audience. I initially said no, but soon found The Lord steering me in this direction as well. In 2019, my first book (entitled “It’s Not Just You!”) came out before I even really realized it was happening! It was all a very natural, organic, God-led process. Just goes to show that through Him, all things are possible! All glory to God indeed. I acknowledge I am nothing without Him and can’t write a thing without His guidance… not because I am anything special, but because He chooses to use me in this small way of witnessing right now. That’s also the only reason I joined Facebook in 2019 – to spread my poetry with the hope of encouraging others in their faith throughout difficult times. I have had a good response in this sense so far.
Because my poetry is from the heart and soul and is a very personal place, I simply write it that way. I don’t have any literary structure, my punctuation and spelling often leave much to be desired and I am not influenced by other poets or poetic movements. My inspiration is The Lord, and showing how He is with me/us even in the bleakest, darkest of times. I enjoy reading other people’s poetry, but to be honest, I don’t particularly enjoy anything that’s too metaphorical or flamboyant. I prefer an honest, straightforward, emotive read.
What does poetry mean to you and how you incorporate Christian elements into it?
To me, poetry is an art form, just like painting, sculpture, drawing, pottery, etc. So it’s a way of the individual expressing themselves and their feelings in a creative way and getting all the emotions on the inside, out into something on the outside. I suppose you could argue that I use writing poetry as a form of therapy. I know that I certainly feel better and less tense when I have poured my feelings into a poem.
In each poem, I write about what I’m battling with at the time, i.e., a bout of depression, a panic attack, general feelings of stress and overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities, grief, watching a loved one struggle with Dementia etc. Most of my poems start off with explaining what the struggle is, then end on a positive note when I show that God is there with me throughout, providing comfort and hope. For example, in one of my poems I write about how depression feels like a cold, dripping tap and I’m gradually getting flooded on the inside by its dark liquid and fear it’s going to drown me. But, then God ensures I am not faced with more than I can handle, He is alongside me, helping me stay afloat in the flood, He will turn the tap off and sustain me and give me strength until He recedes the waters of depression in His timing.
What are your favorite Christian topics and what your poems are predominantly about, in terms of the Christian discourse?
I do write some straight up praise pieces, and have written a lot of poems based on Biblical teachings/stories. However, the vast majority of my poems are based on the trials of life, and how faith will see us through. I understand that God gives us testing times to help us grow, both in terms of our faith, as well as individuals (as explained in Scripture). He never promises believers an easy ride in life, but God does promise He’s with us throughout it all, providing essential succour as only He can. To this end, I feel a great attachment to Job in The Bible and all the suffering he went through, but still kept his faith. I have also always felt a great connection to the haemorrhaging woman in Scripture, who knew that if she could just touch Jesus’s cloak, then she would be healed. I love how Jesus dealt with her so compassionately and said to her that her faith had healed her. Another Bible story I feel akin to is Legion — the possessed man who had his demons cast out by Jesus and was left clothed and “in his right mind”. I think all these stories show us that The Lord can heal/help us both in a physical and mental sense in life, as well as in the obvious spiritual way. I know I have experienced this personally.
In your opinion, can we find a comfort in poetry in this modern, obviously dehumanized world and so far from the faith?
The world has always been and seems will always be a world of multiple beliefs. People choose to follow a myriad of various religions and spiritual paths, or indeed none at all. It is all a matter of free will and choice down to the individual. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know that I personally find great comfort in poetry as an expressive art form and see that words are powerful. Any art is a form of escapism, whether that’s paintings, sculptures, etc., and helps the reader/viewer connect with the emotions portrayed in that particular piece, or make sense of what they are feeling but cannot express themselves. I guess people have to find their own path of comfort in this modern world, whether that’s poetry, or immersing themselves in video games, reading romance or fantasy novels, gardening, sport, knitting, dog walking, etc. Obviously, as a Christian I believe that The Lord is our greatest comfort in life.
Do you believe that poetry comes from God or it’s a matter of art or momentary inspiration?
For me personally, I am 100% certain that my poetry comes from God. It’s not something I looked for or could write of my own accord. I never make time, sit down and think “right… I have an hour, so let’s write some poetry!” It doesn’t work like that. In fact, often a poem will present itself to me at a very inconvenient time, and I just grab a pad and pen and start writing! I appreciate that many people write poetry purposefully with a strict structure in place and make sure it’s all correct according to university degree standards. I understand that people are inspired by a word, or a scene, or a picture. I guess everyone is different in that sense. But, as for me, my inspiration is most definitely God.
How do you see the poetry in the future? Will it go through some like of transformation as the whole world does?
I don’t know how the face of poetry will change in time. I’m confident that there will always be a place for rhymes and poetry, as it’s something people seem to have enjoyed over the centuries. I can’t actually imagine a future world where there is no art in any shape or form, and that includes poetry. Will it change much over time? Maybe. But I don’t really see how, because the struggles we face today are still very similar to those back in Biblical times – wars, murder, adultery, death of loved ones etc. and I don’t see that being any different in the future…in fact a utopian human world seems less and less likely as the years go by!
Do you feel that the pandemic changed the course of the poetry?
I think just slightly, yes. Because it made people focus on their own mortality, belief systems and loved ones, which can’t help but touch us deep in our soul somewhere. People became more in tune with how they were feeling and dealing with it all. Everyone has struggled to some lesser or greater degree mentally during the pandemic and have had to find ways of coping with the stress and distress, whether that’s writing/reading poetry, drawing, painting, learning to play an instrument, taking up a sport or new hobby, etc.
As a Christian poet, what would be your message to our readers and to the world?
I am a nobody! I am in no position to send a message to the world! But, if I had to, my message would be to keep your faith, trust God throughout the hardest of times, know He’s always there with and for you and will never let you down. Things might not go as you planned or hoped, but know that God is always in control and things are right where HE needs them to be. Trust His plan for your life, even when it’s not what YOU had planned! Let Him shepherd you through and try and learn to open your mind to accept The Lord’s answer to your prayers, even when it’s not the answer you were expecting/wanting. Realize that there are always lessons to be learned in all situations. Look for His light in any dark you find yourself in… it will be there, it’s just sometimes hard to spot.