Flapper Press Poetry Café Welcomes Susan Lippert, Poet of the Unconstrained
By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets of all ages from around the globe. This week, we highlight the life and poetry of Susan Lippert!
Susie Lippert is currently a retired CPA, married 36 years with three kids aged from 27 to 32.
Her mom was a a bipolar rebel who married two abusers. Her dad was a thief who spent most of Susie’s life in prison, and her stepdad was a mean drunk. It took her 10 years of night school to finish her degree, but she knew it was her only way of rising above the life she grew up in. It is Susie’s dream for her poems and stories to be an inspiration to young girls.
We reached out to Susan to talk to her about her work and inspirations.
Please meet Susan Lippert!
Annie Newcomer: When I was reading your bio, I wanted to give you a hug and commend you for your strong spirit that, no doubt, secured your ability to survive. Writing is so cathartic. Might you describe why you think this is true for you?
Susan Lippert: As a young girl and on into adulthood, I would often wake up in the middle of the night tortured by another nightmare, remembering a night of abuse by my stepfather. It was as if a black cloud followed me everywhere, even in the happiest of times. One night, I picked up a journal from my nightstand, and I started to write. I wrote and wrote, the pen stabbing, almost ripping the paper, words filling page after page. Many times in my life I had shared a story, a snippet from my past, but this night I released demons, demons that had never seen the light of day. It was still a journal for my eyes only, but it was like being rescued from my own head, as if I had engaged in a battle for life, and I won. That was the beginning of my cathartic journey, and it has been amazing.
AN: During the past year, we have asked our poets to give us a word or phrase that best describes their poetry. What adjective might you select to describe you as a poet?
SL: This was more difficult than I first thought. Most of my poems to date are about the abuse I experienced and not the life I am living. I hope to do more positive poems. In that regard, I would have to say, unrestrained or unconstrained, since I write freely about scary events. Personally, I feel adjectives to describe me are passionate and advocating, because I write to be an inspiration for young girls, and I volunteer as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for young foster children. As a docent at the zoo, I work to educate and inspire the public to care for the animals, and in any way possible, I volunteer to help the homeless.
My causes and my family make me passionate to make a difference in some small way, to see those in need and to offer them a helping hand. Perhaps it is because as a child I needed a hand, but I was invisible.
AN: How long have you been writing? Do you work from diaries or memory?
SN: The big night I mentioned earlier was the beginning of a journal by event for me. I wrote everything I could remember, and then, of course, more memories emerged in the process. I did keep a diary as a girl, but it hasn’t been very helpful. The scariest of events I was not able to write about when I was young, although it does provide a timeline that has helped in remembering details.
I write poetry, short stories, a memoir, and now a second novel that I started during COVID. My library started offering 6-week Zoom classes for poetry and creative writing. The instructors, the other students, and the material was amazing and something that took me well outside my comfort zone. It had never occurred to me to write poetry before, but writing and then reading in class was thrilling, and the honest feedback helped a lot. I signed up just so I could write a memoir for my family, but now I want to write a memoir that other people want to read and poetry that other people find inspirational or funny.
My second novel is about a biological mom who loses her kids, stops the destructive behavior, and wants her kids back. It’s too late, but she sees some things in the adoptive home that are disturbing and sheds light on it. In the end, it’s a feel-good story that explores the best and worst of the “social welfare system.” I hope it illustrates the need for more help early on for children, so they don’t become the next generation of neglectful parents. I should write poems about it.
AN: I have a friend whose father put a gun to her head while her mother said, “Shoot.” She, like you, chose education as her means to improve her life and has gone on to hold amazing jobs. With her husband she opened her home to foster children. Earlier I asked you how your writing helps you. Now I want to shift to ask you how you hope your writing can be a vehicle to help others.
SL: It would be the biggest thrill of my life if a young person, especially a young girl, were to realize that they are special, that they are not alone, and that they can break out and become an independent, free thinker capable of surviving on their own without the help of an abusive mate or parent.
I hope it doesn’t stop at young people, though; I hope with all my heart that adults, especially those who encounter young people regularly, could be more aware of what a child may be going through at home and show some compassion and, most importantly, look them in the eye to say,"I see you. You are special! What can I do for you to help you succeed?"
This question has inspired me to write more about the animals I work with and the plight of the homeless. Did you know that a large percentage of homeless people were thrown out of their homes because they are part of the LGBTQIA+ community? Our oldest daughter is gay, and she is one the best people I have ever met. It brings me to tears thinking of all those souls on the street who were abandoned by their parents. I have some work to do and some more poems to write.
AN: Susie, thank you for spending time with us in the Flapper Press Poetry Café. Before we conclude, might you share the backstories to your poems for our readers?
SL: Of course. Thank you for taking the time to read my poetry.
This a poem I wrote for my writing group to tell them a little about myself. It was published in the Kansas Speaks Out book. The poem illustrates some important points in my life, mainly poverty and abuse, moving around and hiding from my stepfather. Hopefully it shows that we made the best of it by using things on the side of the road and singing together, watching TV and eating Doritos. The part about my my brother being adopted is very sad to me. My small family moved to Florida to try and make it there, leaving my youngest brother with my grandparents, only because they would not let my mom take him. While we were in Florida, my grandparents claimed they didn’t know where my mom was, declared her unfit, and when my dad came into town, they talked him into signing over custody of my brother to my grandparents. He thought it was the best thing for my brother, thinking my mom had enough with me and my brother Bobby. We had no idea until we moved back that this adoption had taken place. We were in touch with my grandparents the entire time we were in Florida because I had written to them and they wrote back to me. It was a stinging betrayal that is felt to this day.
I Am From
I am from many rented homes
sometimes left suddenly
I am from furniture left on curbs
cleaned, reupholstered and loved as new
I am from Kansas, Frankie, Fran or Frances
From grandparents who declared their daughter "unfit"
so they could adopt their favorite, my brother, as their own
I am from meatloaf, Rotel cheese dip and fast-food
I am from We ain't got a barrel of money but we're traveling along
Singing our song, side by side
I am from take your brother and hide until he calms down
I am from watching Friday Fright Night with Doritos
I am from chaos, hunger, fear and love
This poem is about the day my stepfather tried to rape me. I escaped, but was forever changed.