Living in a digital age where social media's “newsfeed” has become equivalent to our own personal CNN ticker with an endless amount of information that we choose to subscribe to. We know everyone's mood; where, what, when we’re eating, and what we have on during these activities thanks to endless amounts of “selfies” posted. At any given time, we as a society can fall into a trance like state just by using the plethora of digital devices, scrolling and “liking” a status, a picture or tweet, sort of like Internet zombies. We are living in a surge of likeability. With the click of a thumbs-up icon we like one another’s lives. But what’s really happening on the other end of the click? Do we know why we like the things that we like? Go Ahead & Like It offers a straightforward outlet for answering these questions in a tactile and offline way. Are there times where we actually stop to think prior to giving someone a “thumbs up” or commenting on a post, of course there are? Although often times than I care to admit, my social media feeds has replaced the equivalent of a cigarette and scrolling is inhaling.
GO AHEAD & LIKE IT is a how-to guide, an everyday exercise, and a pep talk. It encourages people to understand and engage with their world in a different way. Go Ahead & Like It, is yet another way for Suskin to interact with her audience in a personal manner.
As a poet I feel that it is my job to delve into the details that make life meaningful. I put one small aspect onto the page and flesh it out until it stands to explain something larger. I think anyone can do this. I think anyone is capable of looking around and finding something to like in the world, something that has significance for them. When someone clicks that little thumbs-up icon or that little heart, they are saying something about what is meaningful to them. What we like, these details that move us, the smallest aspects of daily life that hold significance, well this is all poetry. Over the years I made lists of things that I like on a pretty regular basis and, although these lists may not directly seem like poetry, they are entirely poetic. Each thing I listed could inspire a poem. Each thing that someone "likes" on social media says a lot about their inner world, but they may only know this if they are asked to delve deeper and explain why they like whatever it is they clicked. Just the practice of writing the list alone is enough to inspire, but then to question why one likes the things they like, well that is where the real poetry begins.
Is there insight that this exercise gives the participant in particular or more an introspective look at their everyday interaction with choosing to like a post, an event, a band or a status?
The insight is infinite! And it's infinite because it's personal. Each person has a different response to my project. I've had people tell me that this practice of noting what they like changes their entire mood. Others say that it is a helpful reminder of the countless things that make them happy. Whether it's daily gratitude or attitude adjustment, knowing what we like opens us up. Beyond that is knowing WHY we like the things that we like. This is where it gets really interesting. To go from blindly clicking away our likes, to understanding why a post moves us, why we want to support an event by liking it, why a status inspires us to click a button, well this exposes us to ourselves and to know ourselves better is to have unique and unlimited insight.
What drew you in to this particular exercise & create the encouraging atmosphere?
A friend of mine in college gave me a note when we were first getting to know one another. The note was simply a list of things that he liked. I could tell that some of the things listed were details that meant a lot to him, movies and songs that were dear to his heart, but other things were obviously details pulled from the moment he was writing the list. To see the things he liked, the specifics that were significant to him in a certain moment, said a lot about his character. I was inspired. I started writing lists, sending them to friends and lovers over the years, filling up notebooks with every small detail that provided meaning in my life. This practice was crucial in certain moments and in others it was simply celebratory. After years I had collected so many lists! I thought if this list writing exercise was so beneficial for me it'd have to work for others as well. And so I wrote this book.
Can you take us into the process & the difference between a singular interaction with a stranger sitting in front of you while you type off essentially off their energy like your previous project "Poem Store" to "Go Ahead And Like It" which is analyzing taste and likes of participants?
The connection between Poem Store and "Go Ahead & Like It" is that each project is a gift. As an artist my aim is to be in service to the earth, and the best way I've found to do this is through serving my fellow humans. If I can help someone, heal someone, or even soothe someone slightly, then I am aiding the earth. Poem Store provides a direct connection and intimate communication from one human to another. The experience is unique for every customer. With my new book I am simply trying to offer up an exercise that will help people. It's a how-to-guide and a self-help book for folks who might not generally seek a such help. Each person will have a unique connection to the book and the process of list making because, everyone has a different eye for digging out meaning in daily life. I'm doing my best to find ways to encourage gratitude and celebration. Poetry and list making are simply my best attempts because each has helped me so much in my own life.
I'm an analogue kind of gal. I use a typewriter. I lived in a little mountain cabin without electricity for two years growing vegetables and tending goats. I think that technology is a great tool and online reality can teach us a lot about ourselves. But to touch pen to page, to scrawl out what we are grateful for and come back to those pages later, well this to me is lasting appreciation. A book to hold in my hands will always outweigh the glow of a screen.
Do you think Go Ahead & Like It" has helped you grow as a writer/poet/interactive artist from your first book and interactive piece "Poem Store?" If so, how?
From my first book "The Collected," to Poem Store, to my current work with "Go Ahead & Like It" I have learned so much about the human condition. Across the country people respond to poetry, they need it and crave it and cry over the words I type out for them. They ask for poems about the same subjects no matter their class, or race, or history. They write the same things on their lists no matter where they live or how they dress. My work is embraced from street corner to the art world and from high school auditoriums to punk house shows. After all this, I'm sure that we are all similar and we can all understand one another through these similarities. My work has shown me so much about the true possibility of connection. My work has been proof that I can indeed connect with everyone, deeply, and that they not only need that, they want it as well.
Jacqueline Suskin is best known through her work with Poem Store, a public performance project in which she types poems on demand. She and her typewriter have been featured on the front page of the LA Times, at SFMoMA, and at Los Angeles Contemporary, bringing poetry to the general public in an intimate, immediate, and accessible way. Go Ahead & Like It is the second book by Suskin. Her first book, The Collected, is a collection of poems inspired by found photographs. She lives in Los Angeles.
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