Connoisseurs of Suffering: Poetry for the Journey to Meaning

Connoisseurs of Suffering is a powerful collection of poems exploring the potential meanings in suffering. Suffering is an inevitable part of life and, perhaps, a necessary one: if we love enough, we eventually experience loss and get hurt. The choice is not between suffering and not suffering so much as between suffering for something and suffering for nothing. The poets featured in Connoisseurs of Suffering have chosen the former path–to suffer for something–and have found meaning through the pain they endured and, in some cases, continue to endure. These poets have chosen to courageously share the wisdom and grace that has emerged from their pain.

The contributors to Connoisseurs of Suffering include award-winning poets and authors as well as psychologists and other mental health workers. The poems are powerful, provocative, and often quite raw with pain and meaning. While the poems will not alleviate your suffering, they will help you feel less alone. As Dave Elkins wisely says in the Foreword, “Life is indeed difficult but it’s a whole lot better when we listen, really listen, to one another’s pain… and care.”


When the smoke and mirrors are put away, what is experienced as therapeutic is being truly understood by another soul bearing witness to our pain. In Jason Dias and Louis Hoffman’s new compilation of poetry, Connoisseurs of Suffering: Poetry for the Journey to Meaning, we are granted that blessing over and over and over again. What becomes all too clear on this journey through these poems is that poetic discourse is the sine qua non best practice for courageously attempting the impossible: giving words to the ineffable quality of suffering and the indestructible desire for someone to “get it.” Poetry is our only hope of doing so, and these poets do it! If you are hurting, this book will be a friend that will go to hell and back with you. Bravo!

Todd DuBose, PhD
Distinguished Full Professor
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Connoisseurs of Suffering: Poetry for the Journey to Meaning is an exquisite journey into the experience of suffering. This is a poignant, stirring collection. I found myself nodding “yes” while reading the poems and digesting others’ experiences, relating to them, and feeling less alone through the comfort of their words. Other times, tears came to my eyes both in remembering my own losses and my own pain, as well as finding the joy inherent in the confrontation of it. This is a book for those of us who believe that relief isn’t about avoiding suffering, but rather finding meaning in our experience of it. Joy can only be experienced if we are first able to embrace our pain. This is a beautiful collection—haunting, affecting, brilliant, and true. Suffering has meaning if we know how to find it.

Jacqueline Simon Gunn, PsyD
Clinical Psychologist and Author