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Book Review: Susceptible To Light

Updated: Jul 9, 2023



I first heard of Chelan Harkin when I came across her interview on the famed podcast Buddha at the Gas Pump by Rick Archer, episode 605. Coming out the Baha’i tradition, and in the same lineage of the great poets on Persian and Islamic mysticism, Chelan began experiencing a connection to the Divine through poetry and her works provided in her book are largely channeled, coming through an inspiring process that leaves her with an almost completed poem that needs little to no editing.

In her interview with Rick, she spoke of praying for inspiration from Hafiz, the great Persian poet and mystic from the 14th century and records his answer in her poem “Hafiz Was Generous,” which says:


Hafiz was generous.

I asked him for help with my poetry,

And he stuffed my heart with a thousand suns for starters.

He poured a collection of instruments into my soul

And announced “Play!”

He spit shinned my inner eye

That it might see wild magic everywhere Winking back at it.

I asked Hafiz for help with my poetry

And he responded “its about time you asked! I’ve been waiting

With a stampede of muses to unleash upon you.

I’ve been waiting with a cosmos of roses to hand to you

To bring forth even the shiest part of your love and get it dancing!”

I asked Hafiz for help with my poetry.

He said, “All poems already are,

Like luminous birds in the spirit realm. You simply must summon them.”

And he started wildly throwing bird food directly into my soul!

There’s a secret trap door in heaven.

When you pull on that string God topples down upon you.

I asked Hafiz for help with my poetry and he pushed God out that door

To land right on top of my heart.

- Susceptible To Light pg. 8-9


Full of vibrant metaphors and colorful language, Chelan’s works invite the reader into an intimate, yet wild and dynamic relationship with the Divine. Writing outside of the gender binary and embracing and interfaith and universal image of God, Chelan’s writings call on the reader to throw themselves, body, mind, soul and spirit into the ecstatic embrace of the Divine Love.


There is a closeness, an affinity to the Divine that Chelan insists on. A belovedness of both God and Self and there relationship that is palpable as you read. In her poem “The Worst Thing,” we hear of her desire to bring humanity and divinity together when she says;


The worst thing we ever did

was put God in the sky, out of reach,

Pulling the divinity from the leaf,

Sifting out the holy from our bones,

Insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement

through everything we’ve made.

A hard commitment to see as ordinary,

Stripping the sacred from everywhere

to put in a cloud man elsewhere,

Prying closeness from your heart.

The worst thing we ever did

was take the dance out of prayer.

Made it sit up straight and cross its legs

Removed it of rejoicing wiped clean its hip sway,

Its questions, its ecstatic yowl, its tears.

The worst thing we ever did is pretend that

God isn’t the easiest thing

In this universe,

available to every soul

In every breath.

- Susceptible To Light pg. 27-28


Through her work, Chelan is leading a poetic revolution to reimagine how we understand God, ourselves, our faith and each other. She invites us to reimagine what living a life connected to the Divine might look like and the power and love that is possible in an actual, intimate encounter with God as the source of all love and compassion. Calling us out of our boxes of tradition, dogma, theology and denominationalism, Chelan’s poetic verses are an adventure in re-wilding ourselves and our sacred journey into Source. As she says in her poem “Re-Wild God,”


O Wild God,

Caster Out of Doctrines,

Scatterer of Seeds,

Heart Thirsty Drunkard,

Forgiver of Worsts,

Opener of Blossoms,

Softest Home of Every Frailty,

Uprooter of Untruths,

Bather of Darkness,

Recoverer of the Most Hidden Lights –

You Are the only one I have ever sought.

- Susceptible to Light pg. 121


Chelan’s books Susceptible to Light and Let us Dance are both available directly from Chelan at her website chelanharkin.com or wherever books are sold.


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