Susan Berkeland

artist  poet  performer

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Memories of Susan

January 18, 2013
From: Deb

Greetings family and friends!

Jack and I hope you all had a happy holiday season. We wish you increased peace, joy, love and prosperity for this New Year. Many of my happiest memories are those of the holidays from Thanksgiving culminating with Susan’s birthday, She was born on January 18th, 1961, and would be 52 old today.

Today, I am remembering a gloriously happy Christmas in the winter of '66, in Hibbing, Minnesota. It was one of Susie's favorite times too. We always went to my Grandma Esta's house on Christmas Eve. The walkway to her house was piled high with snow and the days were magnificently cold. I was four years older than Susan and sometimes would be given the responsibility of holding Susie's hand because the walk was slippery; Breathing in that freezing, crisp air felt fresh and clean and charged us with even more excitement. The world felt brand new when considering the miraculous birth of Jesus (Susie's thought). With the snow outside, the family warmth and hustle and bustle in the kitchen; Grandma Esta's home was filled with. All the Birkelands came, the cousins, aunts and uncles, and also the friends of the family from all the state. Susie and I giggled with glee as we put out of our presents around the beautiful sparkling pine tree, and started to play with cousins, and happily endure goodwill teasing by uncles, and the hugs from others. Grandma's home was like a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting with the down home decorations, the smell of a great meal to come, the anticipation of opening presents and the coziness of being with our family whom we loved so much.
This Christmas was especially wonderful because of the gifts that my uncle Tyrone gave to Susie and me, (Thanks Uncle Ty)! Two beautiful dolls, one with blond hair, and one with brunette hair, several inches taller than we were. How could anything be more tremendous and we were both overcome with delight? We often played with those beautiful dolls. Sue played with them constantly. The two dolls went to Texas in 1967 with us, when we moved to San Antonio. Those childhood Christmas Eves and other holiday celebrations in Minnesota and Susie’s birthday were always magical to me. Now, part of the magic of those times is remembering them through Susie's eyes. 

Love until next time,


January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Susan

love, Richard


October 7, 2011

Alice Rogoff, poet, writer, editor and activist has sent a poem in memory
of Susie and another good friend of ours, Tony. We sincerely thank Alice
for allowing us to add her inspired poem Susie, in with the other poems


September 17, 2011
From: Nicole

   Anything is possible in The Eternal State of Love
Susan Birkeland2nd European FESTIVAL of POETRY

Antwerp, Belgium :-)

Here's to our dear friend, Susan Birkeland.
The only woman I know who could get such
a cool gig and not even have to show up for it.

peace and love abide inside

Susan BirkelandPoets, translators as well as the festival producers,
Annmarie Sauer and Fred Schywek the organizers for the 2nd European Festival of Poetry and Hafenklänge, Havenklanken, Sounds of Harbor, a multi-lingual project of internet publishing  went online seeking western poets to participate in, they found devorah major, San Francisco Poet Laureate 2002 through 2006, and our own dear Susan Birkeland. And they did not even realize at first that Susan was no longer available for poetry readings having left this worldly plane, lost to Breast cancer,
age 45 in 2006.

Annmarie Sauer first contacted me in February 2011 to check on copyright.
Susan's beloved sister Debbie Birkeland gave her permission for them to use her poetry. Annmarie and Fred translated two of Susan's Poems and one was also
translated into song, all three to be performed at the Festival.
They even came here to San Francisco to visit and had a few of Susan's friends
record several of her other poems which will be available to hear at the Festival as well.
Visit Annmarie's blog Muddy Roads and dusty rails for more of her interests and good works.
A trilingual anthology called Harbors of the West is being produced and will be available from World Internet Books (spring 2012).
I feel that what has happened for Susan is of great significance.
Susan Birkeland did not even have to be able to show up - to receive this honor.
They were able to feel Susan's spirit, her loving kindness and profound compassion,
through those few poems she left in her only chapbook,
The Bruised Angels' Almanac published 2006 by Zeitgeist Press (list of artists)
The whole experience makes me smile and I like to imagine Susan is smiling too.

Tuesday January 18, 2011
Susan on her bike

five years in the wink of an eye!
Susan, a friend of ours told me the other day that the first
time he saw you - was many years ago when you cruised
past him on your bicycle out in the Mission. Said you had
given him one of your dazzling smiles, too.
Another one who loved you but was too shy to say.
Tonight I will light a birthday candle for you and listen to
Phoebe Snow for both of us.

love always, Nicole

Sat. November 18, 2010

From Chetana

Love you and miss you and thinking of you today with all my heart!!!


Sat. November 18, 2010

From Nicole

The years are flying by and I often think of you and the good times we shared. Your other friends speak of you too, dear. Everyone whose life you touched remembers you with love.
peace and love,



Sun. January 18, 2010
From Debra (Birkeland) Lindsey

Today on Susie's birthday I recall our lives together when she was a small child. I loved her at first sight. Helping her, watching over her and playing with her was a never a chore to me. We had great fun together and I took seriously my role as her protector, her big sister.

My dear sister Susie is as close to me as my heartbeat and always will be. Love is Eternal.Blessing to all of you who knew her, loved her and continue to keep her close to your hearts.

love, Deb Birkeland


Sun, January 18, 2010
From Nicole

It is Susan's birthday and I awoke before dawn this morning and lit a candle in my window for her. I am thinking of what a treasure she was to her friends and family, a gift of light and love within her artistic poetic community.

I still miss Susan, would love to be able to call, meet up with her for a movie matinee, maybe a walk and talk through the park. I sure am grateful for her poetry and the CD I have of her reading. It's wonderful to hear her voice again even if it does make me cry.

I share this favorite quote from Santayana in loving memory of Susan

"the world is not respectable: it is mortal,
tormented, confused, deluded forever;
but it is shot through with beauty,
with love, with glints of courage and laughter;
and in these, the Spirit blooms."
~ George Santayana

peace and love,


Sun. January 18, 2009
From Chetana

Dearest Deborah and all those in Susie's Heart -- today she would have been forty-eight, growing ever wiser and more beautiful, writing ever more brilliant poems -- answering the phone with the ever delightful "angel pie'' and once more entering my soul with her divine reassurance of grace. I will remain in awe of you dear one for all my days -- thank you for your love and inspiration and humor and presence -- beyond all words i miss you and thank you and love you -- your chetana


Sun. January 17, 2009
From dj birkeland

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth, though they have long been extinct.
There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world, though they are no longer among the living.
These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. (Hannah Senesh)
Susie, your brilliance still is alive and your sweet spirit still radiates in my mind and in my heart. What a ray of sunshine you must be in heaven....
I miss you so much. djb


From Nahara:
Nahara's last time with SusanA very good friend of Susan's, a picture of them together with this message.
(sent via Heikki, also a very special friend of Susan's)

This is a photo from the last time I was with Suze,Earth plane.
my love and thoughts with all of you today
sending love and healing,


Weds. January 14, 2009
From Nicole Savage

Susan and NicoleAs we come closer to Susan's birthday (January 18th, 1961),
I continue to feel very grateful for the few paintings and drawing I have of hers, the bits and pieces of poetry she passed to me at readings now and again, her wonderful Renegade CD that I recently listened to with a mutual friend, and other small gifts, a pretty rock, the special feather that she gave me. I pick them up and suddenly can picture her smiling as she hands them to me.

But awhile back, I remembered an evening spent with Susan that I had completely forgotten. Susan was lounging on my sofa that evening after we had eaten supper. always something healthy followed by something decadent like chocolate or
ice cream and cookies)

Anyway we were talking and listening to music as usual. I do not recall exactly what was said, but I do remember that suddenly both of us were crying heartbroken over something tragic that was happening in the world.

Since Susan died, I have always thought of her smiling, she had a dazzling smile and that is how I see her in my dreams, but now I remember that she cried, too. She was a well of compassion for all people everywhere and and an activist for the animals, too.

Do you have a memory or photo of Susan or photo of a painting she may have given you or a poem that is not on her website yet? I sure would love to have some of that waiting for me when I return.

peace and love,
Nicole Savage

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Thurs. November 18, 2008
From Ann Cohen

I believe it is two years ago today that our dear Susan passed.
And we all witnessed the most beautiful pink and orange and all the hues of love in the sky when Susan's body left us to continue her journey.
She is still doing her work.
Love to you  Ann    Ann Cohen's website


Sun., November 16, 2008
From Ann Cohen
Susie is at Annies Little Farm Susan and I met and our friendship grew to the point that we helped each other out in a various ways.
Susie is at Annies Little Farm helping a few young friends.
I love you Susan and remember the mother in you along with being a good friend.
Love Annie

Please read Ann Cohen's Poem for Susan Birkeland





Weds. August 20, 2008
From Nicole Savage
Susan at  Liveworms Gallery Art ShowYesterday I received an email from San Francisco poet Jennifer Barone. She sent me this lovely photo she had taken of Susan some time ago. It was taken at a Live Worms Gallery Art Show in which Susan participated, in 2004.
Jennifer wrote, 'Susan's been on my mind lately. I only knew her for a brief time when I first moved here and I was lucky to listen to her, see her create. Susan gave me encouragement just by the kind words she said to me, her presence and her work. It means so much, you have no idea. I try to encourage girls to get out there and do their thing at the readings. I think just by living fully and being true to yourself, you effect the world by example. Susan set a good example".
One of Susan's pastel paintings is above her head to the right in this photo.


Weds. August. 6, 2008
From Nicole Savage

The event held in memory of Susan Birkeland last night at the North Beach Library was very well attended by Susan's friends and fans..
Kush was very generous in sharing with us some of the footage he has taken of Susan over the years and WOW! seeing Susan performing, alive and well, her honest and loving spirit so evident in everything she did was a most pleasurable experience even though we all found use for the kleenex we had wisely brought with us.
Susan's poetry and the events she hosted were often for worthy causes and seeing again her special way of encouraging others to join her in the cause reminded us of how inclusive Susan was, it really was never all about her.
Kush did not show Susan's last reading at Sweeties and everyone I spoke to afterward agreed that it was good he had not because that river of tears would surely have washed us all out into the street.


Tuesday July 22, 2008
From Nicole Savage

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
7:00 pm ,
North Beach Library
2000 Mason St.(at Columbus Ave.)
San Francisco

The North Beach Library presents
Audiovisual Program of dramatic poetry and vital art of Susan Birkeland as captured on film performing in San Francisco.
Presented by Cloud House Poetry Archives showcasing video field recordings of Steven"Kush"Kushner.


Thursday, January 31, 2008
From: Ann Cohen

Robin Reichert and Susan BirkelandRobin Reichert was the owner of the Paradise Lounge, a popular dance club and performance venue in San Francisco for many years.
From 1996 until the club closed in Dec. 2001, Susan gave improv classes at the Paradise Lounge and put together programs for groups to perform and the shows she did with physically and or mentally challenged young adults were at Paradise Lounge.
After the Paradise Lounge closed Susan went on to perform at other venues, and continued to further develop her gifts for poetry and art.


Saturday, January 19th, 2008
From: Ann Cohen

I remember a birthday party that Susan invited me to. I was to go to an address at the beach near the zoo. I never met any of these friends of Susan's before. They were wonderful and very interesting. We all went to the beach. The day was beautiful and we all shared food that we brought. I brought my guitar and played shared and just was there to celebrate Susie's birth. I did draw a picture and when I can get my scanner working I will send it and share with all of you.
Susan's friends that share are an important part of Susie. Love Annie


January 12, 2008
From: Deborah J. Birkeland

Dear Friends and Family,
Does anyone have a birthday memory they'd like to share about Susie, hers or yours? Her birthday was January 18th, 1961. Thanks, Deb

I remember very clearly when Susie was born, my parents brought her home from the hospital, and I got to hold her on the pillow, and I decided that she was my baby, too. As an infant Sue slept in a crib in my parent's bedroom, and I would get out of my bed very early, climb into her crib, and they would wake up to see me holding her in her crib. This of course alarmed my Mom as she thought I would drop Susie, but I never did. My Mom got up earlier and earlier to try to prevent me from holding Susie in the morning, and then just decided the only way this was going to work, was to let me hold her for long periods of time during the day. From the start I felt she was my little angel, given to my by God, to make me happy!

Susie's second birthday was very funny as she could not restrain herself during the Happy Birthday song, and plunged both hands in the cake, and brought up lots of cake and frosting, and was so happy stuffing it into her mouth. Susie, always jumping joyfully into life, and grabbing it with both hands!

When Susie was six, at our family birthday party for her, I remember that she and my Dad were carrying on a very political conversation. This was not unusual, my parents were very active politically, and Susie had many opinions. She was worried about nuclear war, civil rights, and certain politicians. When Mom asked her what she was hoping for in the next year, she announced, "I will be preparing myself, so I can run for president when I am old enough, someone has to do something!"
My Dad thoroughly enjoyed this, and would introduce her to their friends, as my daughter who will be president of the United States some day!

I remember an incredible birthday party Susie had in SF, at her apartment, when I got to meet many of her dear friends, who were so enchanting - this was at least 18 or more years ago, when she was going to graduate school, I was so happy she lived there, after meeting her very dear friends.

My brother Bryan, and sister-in-law DJ, had a birthday party for!
Susie once in her mid-thirties. We always missed her birthdays as she lived in SF, so we all asked her to come home for a birthday. DJ is one of the best people in the world for making someone feel so special, when celebrating them. She had lights in their back yard, and took their large table outside, decorated it with a beautiful white tablecloth and centerpiece, and we dined elegantly on delicious food, and fine wine in their back yard. It was all very grand. We had a riotously good time. And when drinking red wine, with a great flourishing gesture to punctuate a story, Susie spilled wine all over the table cloth. We all just cracked up. No matter what her age, and despite the fact that she did not spill things when eating with other people, this always seemed to happen with the family, especially if my brother said at the beginning of the meal, "you're not going to spill anything tonight are you?" Afterwards, she always found a way to trounce him good with her acerbic wit. A good time was had by all.

Susie would be 47 this year. Deep in my heart though, I know she is celebrating in a far happier place, with no more suffering, where she paints sunsets, and serves as a muse to her friends and loved ones, by whispering creative ideas, love poems and verses and still inspires our hearts. This January 18th, I will have one glass of wine to drink, and one to spill, while I honor and am grateful for all she has shared with me, and given to me. I am grateful for all of you who love and remember her. Happy Birthday Susie! Love, Deb Birkeland (Susie's sister).


January 11, 2008
From: Tom Stolmar

The other day in San Francisco I received from Susan's friend, Tom Stolmar, the poem he wrote for Susan at the time of her passing. We thank Tom for allowing us to share his Poem which has just now been added to the Poems for Susan section.
Please read Three for Susan by Tom Stolmar
Nicole Savage


January 9, 2008
From: Elizabeth F. Henshaw

Susie always made you feel your life story, your way of being, your most intimate thoughts would become the basis for the lead in one of her brilliant works. She believed in the best in us -- our light of brilliance. She was effervescent and intoxicating. She loved creating work for creative performing artists -- creating for all those she loved. Her love is still needed. She's forever with us -- with her vision of insight into our deepest stories.


January 7, 2008
From: Lynn Stone

Hello All!

Susie was so present in my thoughts all through the holidays. I was always so awed by her enthusiasm and commitment to giving and celebrating. She managed to manifest the perfect balance between the spiritual and the material through out the festival of the shortest days. I wore a red velvet dress of hers to a holiday party, and felt her wonderful joy in dressing up and just having fun.
All the love of the season to Susan and you all!!!
-Lynn Stone


January 1, 2008
From: heikkie

Happy New Year! Dear Susan!
May your journey forward this year be joyful and loving.
be well,
heikkie (


From Ann Cohen

While Susan and I worked together at the Transmission on the corner of 11th and Folsom in San Francisco, one of the special things that Susan would do is put children with special needs together in a variety show there. Susan always had a special way with children.

Susan Birkeland and Allen Cohen I am also sending this photograph of Susan and my husband, Allen Cohen to share on Susan's website. Before Susan knew Allen, she was a novel writer. It was with Allen's encouragement that she stepped into poetry.
Love, Ann
read Susan's Poem for Allen


December 21, 2007
From: Deborah J. Birkeland

Dear Friends and Family,

Jack and I want to send you hopes for a beautiful holiday season, and one of your happiest years ever in 2008. I have been thinking a great deal about some of my favorite holiday memories of Susie.

When we were little girls in Hibbing, Minnesota, Susie was always so excited for all holidays. I had been told at 5 from an older friend about the true identity of Santa, and I did not want that to happen to my sister. The only problem was that Susie was a light sleeper, and would get up about 4 am and wanted to immediately see what Santa had brought her. I was pretty sure that Santa had not "visited" us yet, so I would go through elaborate holiday stories each year, which usually started with the explanation that since we lived closer to the north pole than other children, that Santa would be stopping by to see us on his return trip. However, I used other ploys as well, because its hard to keep a 5 year olds' interest from 4-6 am. My grandmother was head of Sunday school at our church, and in Hibbing, in those days, elementary kids were sent to their own church for "Wednesday" school, to further their spiritual education. Needless to say, I was quite well informed at an early age. My first grade Sunday schoolteacher, had us memorize all of the books in the bible in order, and we sang " O Come, O come Emmanuel" for the church holiday play. So, by 8 I had lots of info down, and would tell her the whole Christmas story starting with the Annunciation, and Mary conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit, to the birth of Christ, the families trip to Egypt, and how well Jesus did when he surprised the priests when he showed extensive spiritual knowledge at age 12 on his first trip to the temple. Each part of the Christmas story was punctuated by a holiday hymn which we sang loudly (for me in hopes that we'd awaken my parents). Anyway, Susie would sit in rapt attention, which I always thought was amazing, for someone so young, but even as a young child she paid serious and deep! attention. I remember her being ecstatic for the whole Christmas parade of events, but so gleeful at what Santa brought her, it was so fun for me to watch her delight. The only drawback was that at one holiday service, she was squirming around, my Mom asked her "why can't you sit still?" Sue said, "Deb already told me all this stuff."

Susie always loved the Christmas season, and was so happy to find the right gift for everyone.As an adult Susie gave the most creative and considerate gifts. She was on a budget, but would take time to discover the coolest finds for everyone. I always loved the books she gave me, they were always so perfect for whatever my interests were, or where she thought they should be..... She was quite a teacher in that and many ways. Having Susie come to Texas for Christmas was always my favorite holiday gift. I think my all-time favorite memory was of her being dressed up as an angel in a Christmas play when she was 8. She was so angelic looking anyway, and I always thought of her as an "angel" after that. She did not have to be reminded about giving and loving, she had such a giving nature, she practiced "the spirit of Christmas" all year.

Love, Deb.


December 20, 2007
From: Deborah J. Birkeland

I remember quite a few stories of Susie's driving incidents.  She had a habit of turning around to talk to people in the back seat, while driving. Also, I think some of her early driving experiences scared her, and did not help her driving confidence. When she was still in high school, she had an accident, and then another one shortly after that in which she mistook a blinking red light for a yellow one, thinking this only required caution and not a full stop. She broadsided a guy in a truck, which caused much more harm to the family car. However, she was afraid of Mom's insurance being raised, so she paid the guy off in cash for the damage to his car. He then turned around and filed a claim against my Mom's insurance. I am not sure of what fireworks transpired at home as I was away at school, however, she was dropped from my Mom's insurance policy, and not allowed to drive again until she was 18. In Austin, where she lived after college, she still had that old giant gas guzzling green Mercury Marquis, which I had driven first in college. As I recall, one day she called Mom to request a little extra cash, as she had driven it the wrong way on a one way street, and when she saw the cars coming right at her, she drove over the median, which somehow blew out all the tires, and she had to get a tow truck to haul the old junker away, hence the needed cash. I think she swore off driving immediately after that, and I still cannot recall what happened to the old Mercury. I have to say it was hard for a petite person to drive, as it was like driving around in your living room, and you could barely see Susie's head above the steering wheel.

Despite her difficulties with cars, she always amazed me with her resilience, driving acumen, and ingenuity with bikes, especially in SF. I visited her many times in SF, and was always blown away by her strength, agility and courage biking all over the city, while I was constantly huffing and puffing on ever hill, when walking, and was scared silly to bike in SF traffic, as I was sure I would be killed if I tried. Unfortunately being from Texas, I was used to driving everywhere, not an admirable attribute, but the norm, especially for Houston. Sue was always in better shape than I, and was mostly patient, but sometimes would get slightly irritated when I would constantly lag behind on our jaunts to her favorite spots, and suggest (beg) to go to the places within a two block radius of her home.
Jack swears that Susie owned 28 bikes in the 20 years she lived in SF.  I admire my sister so much for her physical fitness, commitment to the environment, and possibly leaving one of the smallest "carbon footprints" of any I know.

I guess my favorite biking story, was when I was leaving for home after a visit with Susie. To save money we both decided that I could take the BART to the airport and could walk to the station, rather than call a taxi. I was leaving on a six am flight, and did not know where the BART station was but assumed it was close, as we had to drag my two large suitcases, and one large purse there. For my dauntless sister this was no problem, she got out her bike, balanced the largest suitcase on it, as I dragged behind carrying the other large wheel less suitcase, and purse, thinking "are we there yet?" at 4 am. Well, it seemed like a long way for me, but we got there and promptly discovered that the BART did not run on Sundays, the bus did not come at 4:30 am,and our only hope was a taxi. We flagged down a cab driver, who told us it would be $20.00 more than we could scrape together. We told him our sad tale, and this nice guy loaded up Susie bike, and took me to the airport and Susie back home. On the way, I was thanking him profusely, and telling him this was a miracle for us, and could I pray for his family? He said "sure", and then when I left the cab, he asked Susie if I was a minister or something. Sue's quip was "in a way, but perhaps not as much as she thinks she is..." Perfect Susie-ism. Deb Birkeland (Sue's sister).


December 14, 2007
From Ann Cohen

I thought that driving may have been an issue. When Peg was staying with Susan at her San Francisco home we had a party to celebrate Peg's visit at my home in Walnut Creek.
A few of Susan's friends drove over to the party with Susan as the driver. I heard from the passengers that it was a very slow drive over the bay bridge and to my home.


December 14, 2007
From Eric Birkeland

Ann, it's funny you should mention Susie, bikes and cars. I never knew that she named her bikes, but I am not surprised as that sounds an awful lot like Suze. You know, the common knowledge in her family back in Minnesota and Texas was that Susie did better when she wasn't driving. I think everyone, including Susie, preferred it that way.

When she would come to Minnesota, I was often the one who got to pick her up at the airport, drive her around town, and up to the cabin and back. Those were wonderful drives.

She really had not talent for driving, but she made one hell of a good passenger. She always found a way to get to where she was going - a lover of journeys, and a wonderful companion.


December 4, 2007
From Nicole Savage

While attending an Art show in North Beach last week-end that included photographs from the amazing Susan Birkeland With Friendscollection of photographer Sean O'Donnell, I was delighted to see among the over two hundred small photos of North Beach poets, artists, and other creative folks, this one with Susan.

Susan Birkealnd Haight StreetThere was one other photograph of Susan, taken on Haight Street that another friend, Lee had purchased and
she kindly allowed me to scan hers for inclusion here on Susan's memories page.



November 30, 2007
From Ann Cohen

I enjoyed thinking about Susan and her bikes.
Does anyone remember any other of Susan's names for her bikes?
Love Annie


November 30th, 2007
From: Richard Sinrich

Susan was a pearl of a girl, a friend indeed and the person I was proudest to call my teacher.


November 30, 2007
From Ann Cohen

Susan loved her bikes. When she would find herself a new bike by means of buying off of Hurricane who would acquire bikes, fix them up and find new owners, Susie would name them Billy or some other guys name. She would be sad for days when a bike would disappear or break for good.

As long as I have known Susan I only saw her drive a car once and that was when her mom Peg came and stayed with Susan for a while. Susan rented a car for that week.

You would see Susan driving her bike all over San Francisco at any hour day or night. She never as far as I know had a bad run in while riding anywhere. When she and I would work with Robin at the Paradise Club Susan would head on home alone as late as 2 am. That Susie girl has moxie.   love Ann


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