Use Your Joy


An excerpt from Every Day is a Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment

“The poet’s measures serve anarchic joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

With all of the horrible things happening in our world, we often feel guilty about being joyous. It can feel wrong to express any level of elation as our planet and fellow humans suffer. But joy is a crucial part of collective healing, and limiting happiness because of guilt only harms us as a whole. Humans don’t do well with apathy. Yet I understand why so many of us feel stuck in the current climate. With genocide, institutionalized racism, police brutality, climate change, deforestation, sexism, transphobia, and inequality of all kinds plaguing the headlines, it makes sense that so many people feel powerless and are in despair.

But it’s important to remember that in addition to the actions we can take by attending meetings to organize, signing petitions, voting, and voicing our outrage, our joy is a form of activism.

The poems that I wrote for my Poem Store customers had an innate optimism. I didn’t set out intending to write positive poems for the masses; it’s just that whatever I’m channeling when I create spontaneously for strangers is a thing of light. This hopefulness doesn’t exclude the darkness or pain that a customer might present when they name their subject; rather, it’s a reminder that goodness exists. Sometimes that goodness is a lesson, the inspiring aspect of pain that causes us to grow or the stark reality of something horrific that won’t last forever, that will change if we work for it or give it time. There is joy in all of this acknowledgment. There is felicity in our expressions of belief. Even a glimpse of hope in a time of hopelessness is a serum of solace that we all seek. Poetry is this medicine.

Poems can help us celebrate joyous events. To thrive amidst pain and confusion, we have to learn how to hone in on the things we’re most grateful for and praise them with language.


As we care for ourselves and make the most of life, as we serve and revere, as we mend our many mistakes, as we acknowledge and unpack our privilege, allowing for a release of rapturous expression feels radical and imperative.

A Morning

I gladly keep the windows open,
desert air rushing in to cover everything
with chaparral dust. I’ll wipe it up again
and again, or just let it stay. The sound
of the cat drinking. The hatchet cut
on my knuckle and the splinters in my hands.
Good to wear the mark of wood.
Old broom handles and the worn barn door.
Avocado, pine, and oak. A needle
and the slow yet satisfying meditation
of removal. I praise it all
with water for the orchard roots
and bring the hose to my lips.
I release all worry.
The earth is here and I am it.

Exercise For Joy: Make a Ritual of Joy
Be in service to your joy by noticing it. Let this observation be a routine, a ceremonial practice of tending to your exuberance. The more joy we feel, the better chance we have of extending such delight to others. Hallelujah! You woke up and saw the brilliant sun again! This thought is the day’s first poem. Oh joy! The wilderness is large and secretive! Write about it. Wow! You are loved by a gentle woman, and she sings so sweetly. Write her a letter and find poetry to celebrate her goodness. When someone is getting married, they often write poetic vows of dedication and potent promises. When someone graduates from college, we commend them with verse. It’s natural to fall into poetry when we are struck by joy. Let the work of words reveal joy in your thoughts, on the page, in any way that pays tribute to the pleasure of being alive so that you feel it fully on each occasion.

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Jacqueline Suskin
Jacqueline Suskin has composed over 40,000 poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of seven books, including Help in the Dark Season (Write Bloody, 2019) and Every Day is a Poem (Sounds True, 2020). Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see Used with permission of the author and the publisher, Sounds True, Inc. 


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