I am drawn to my sister’s poems because they tell honest and flowing stories. They are truthful and insightful narratives about things we see or ought to see.
Recently, I asked Sue to talk a little about her poems sung on the album Scatter My Ashes. You can download the album booklet which includes the poems heard in the two song cycles. -William Susman
“I wrote Scatter My Ashes when I was standing on a street corner handing out leaflets for a political candidate. No one was around, so I had nothing to do. I wrote this poem on the back of one of the leaflets. It just came to me.
With Hot Time, I did have some inspiration. Some friends and I had just come out of a movie theater. We were on Clark and Division, an area in Chicago where there a lot of bars. The whole poem is a description of the way I experience bars. The “hot dark rooms filled with sweating, hungry bodies, dancing with fever into the morning.” “You can choose one to take home with you,” is about “one night stands, people picking up strangers in bars and taking them home. “You can go on alone” is the choice not to pick someone up and just go home yourself. “You can help yourself” has a double meaning—“You can help yourself” to the many people around you to take home with you or you can “help yourself”, as in you can take care of yourself and not need another person to do it.
In Begging the Night For Change, I was in a parking lot and a woman came up to me and asked me for money. “I said, ‘No’ and walked away.” I wrote the poem afterwards. It was a real experience.
In Moving In To An Empty Space, I was on a personal retreat, staying in a cabin in St. Charles, IL. I went there fairly often when I was in graduate school. I spent some of the time writing and some of the time just taking long walks. I didn’t see anybody for most of the time. That’s what I came there for, silence and peace. I wrote “Moving In To An Empty Space” after standing outside in the cold. It was winter then. I was looking up at the night sky filled with stars. There was no sound and the words just came to me and I wrote the poem.” -Sue Susman