Brown Girl Boss: Meet Poet, Playwright and Psychology Student Bethany Sukhnanan
23-year-old Bethany Sukhnanan released her first poetry collection in January 2022. From Here to The Stars is proof that amazing things can happen when one pursues their passions.
Bethany was just 8-years-old when she first began writing. She naturally rhymed words together, not realizing until her teen years that the verses she had been writing were indeed poetry. She often turned to poetry when facing different obstacles in life or as a way to express her thoughts and feelings. This was usually done on her phone; Bethany explained that some of the poems in her book were written before note apps were on our phones. She would text herself the things she wrote so she could return to them later.
At 15, Bethany attended her first poetry slam at the Drake Underground Hotel in Toronto. She performed the piece Shut Up, Speak, Scream, the first poem in her book and also the inspiration for it. She took a break from writing for a few years before getting back into the craft at 19.
“Some things you have to take time to sit down and learn and other things just kind of come to you. Poetry is one of those things. It just came to me and I wanted to nurture it and keep going,” Bethany said.
Bethany describes her writing style as freeform, intuitively writing the things that she thinks and feels. Her self-awareness and understanding has helped her to put her perspectives and feelings into the right words, something she explained was difficult to do when she didn’t know herself as well.
After years of writing, Bethany had amassed a large body of work. She found herself wondering what to do with all the poems she had written, not wanting to just post them on Instagram. She wanted something physical she could share with the world.
Bethany began to work on her book, going through the process of creating a cover, formatting, editing and more. She described the experience as a learning curve, being much different than she originally anticipated. Rereading the words she had written at the height of different emotions shocked her at times, but also showed her growth. For this reason, Bethany included the age each poem in From Here to The Stars was written at.
As a child Bethany was bullied by classmates, being one of the only Brown and Guyanese children in her school. It was through the kindness of one daycare teacher that Bethany was inspired to title her book From Here to The Stars. Knowing she liked to write, her teacher gifted her a notebook with the quote “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars,” on the cover in gold writing. For Bethany, the moment was special, as she felt that someone cared and believed in her. She still has the notebook to this day.
“This is everything that fifth grader wanted. Everything that she didn’t think she could do—we did it. We came on this really big journey of putting it together and being a writer,” Bethany said.
From Here to The Stars is divided into four sections; The Painful Ones, Love, Racism and Self-Love. Two of Bethany’s poems Guyana Gold and Little Indian Girl were inspired by Brown Gyal Diary’s Leh We Write Nuh workshop series hosted in July 2021. She wanted to share her experience and difficulties navigating identity, something many Indo-Caribbeans can relate to. She also mentions the struggle to feel beautiful in her own skin when the mainstream often depicts Eurocentric features as the standard of beauty.
“This is an identity to be proud of because it comes from so much strength and so much survival. If all your ancestors, all the people in your family went through these things for you to exist, there’s something to be celebrated.”
Bethany ends her book with an extended piece on self-love, leaving readers on a positive note. To those considering sharing their own work with the world, Bethany says the best thing you can do is go for it.
“A book is forever. Even if you pass away or stop writing, it’s there. It’s kind of like a time capsule for who you were, what you thought, and how you think… Just do it and be proud of whatever comes out of it.”
Bethany’s future as a writer is bright. She has many ideas for future projects and dreams of being a fantasy writer one day. Her next poetry collection will be a reflection of who she is today, whereas her first collection represents her past self. Each book, she says, will be little pieces of her at different times in her life.
We will certainly be keeping an eye out for Bethany’s future fantasy trilogy!
You can support and purchase From Here to The Stars on Amazon.