Female Faith Poet-Susan Cowger

Susan Cowger confesses she was the ‘black sheep’ in the family, not quite fitting into the mold of family vocations–nurses, pharmacists, sensible people. Instead, her first language was art, a calling that led to a BA in Fine Art (1977) from Montana State University and subsequent MFA in Poetry with a secondary emphasis in Art from Eastern Washington University in 1997.

Susan is a sculptor, visual artist (oils and watercolor) and a writer. What made her take the leap from two dimensional and three-dimensional work to words?

“Art is often abstract. I wanted to help people enter into the art, so I started writing little poems. It seemed to help,” she said.

Susan later founded Rock and Sling Press and Journal in 2004, a well-received publication in the world of faith writing. Editor and fellow poet Laurie Klein joined the masthead for many years and partnered with Susan in its mission. Rock and Sling’s operations were passed to Whitworth University in Spokane WA in 2010.

Susan has continued her creative expressions in the paths of writing, sculpting and painting and recently published Slender Warble, a collection of poems from Wipf & Stock’s Poeima Series.

The book’s back cover blurb explains the title.

“Within the bewildering paradox of suffering and beauty, we often miss the Invisible One. Never quite what you’d imagine, the nudge of his Presence can be mind-bending. More often, the Almighty gives no more than a slender warble. This collection is about finding the presence of God in spite of and because of the trappings that make us most human.”

The trajectory of the work covers four parts of Cowger’s own faith journey, beautifully summed up in the opening poem here. The arc of her writing includes sections in the book: In the Tunnel has poems that show how one begins to listen for God. Sections Between Two Hands, Is That You? and A Voice Clears, record the way one comes to faith, not in an instant but in a lifetime of awakenings.

Each section of the book begins with a “Weather Report” as she calls it, including the date and time of day, whether it’s early morning or dusk. They also set the tone for each section and frame the poems.

The theme of water weaves through the poems, looming as a powerful, pummeling force in a piece about nearly drowning.  Drink and thirst, floating and sinking, as well as the ocean feature frequently; water appears also as “silent drops of dew.”

Cowger’s signature style is punctuation-less, a remarkable feat for an editor and writer. When I asked her about the odd line breaks and spaces instead of periods or commas, she remarked, “It was intentional. I hope to redeem the current ways of communicating. We speak too fast, write in abbreviations, listen only half-heartedly.”

“My poems force the reader to slow down, read with care, pause at the end of each line and breathe. One must pay attention.”

“Light in the Woods” Susan Cowger

Cowger continues to pay attention in her studio in Eastern Washington and shares her art work and poetry online via her beautiful, new website. The tagline? “Art and Poetry are mirrors to see what you love.”

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit, view her work and more importantly, open the door to the possibility of poetry and listen for God’s “slender warble” in your life.

You can find Susan’s book HERE.


To read more of my poetry book reviews and interviews, click HERE

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6 thoughts on “Female Faith Poet-Susan Cowger

  1. I’ve put Susan’s book on my purchase list! I look forward to stretching my brain with divergent thinking, and my heart with fresh insight. Love Carol Wilson’s idea too–to absorb such poetry as an act of worship. Thank you, Jody!

  2. You made my day with this post, Jody. It causes me to think that reading material like yours, Susan Cowger’s and Laurie Klein’s is truly an act of worship for me. Thank you for introducing me to Susan through your blog. “Lord, may Your Joy be Jody’s strength even when she’s waiting to be aware of Your nudges and winks.”

    1. Carol you made MY day….. any time I can nudge people closer to approaching poetry I am thrilled. Susan is a gift!

  3. Jody, breath-taking! I had to read her piece about three times and then I slowly began to get it. I love her punctuation-les writing and odd line breaks. I will order her book. thank you for this. You did a great job of writing in such a way that this heart said “order it. You must order it!”
    I have been taking Leslie Leyland Fields course on “Your Story Matters” and have delved into some stories I had not yet written. It’s been quite a journey for me.

    1. Carol, isn’t she gifted? I’m glad this left you wanting more….. Happy writing journeys to you, friend, and thanks for reading.

  4. Jody, thank you for celebrating Susan and her masterful book, introducing them both to your lucky readers. Susan perceives and expresses truth amid brokenness and startling beauties as no other writer I know. Her life and her writing consistently and contagiously invite us to listen more closely for the divine whisper, the holy nuance amid our rattletrap lives. Thank you, too, for the gentle tip of the hat. You, my friend, excel as curator, liaison, and champion of writers.

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