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North Irwin man condenses Bible books into haiku poetry

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Chris Suehr, 25, spent several months working on condensing each of the 66 books of the Bible into haiku form.
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Chris Suehr, 25, spent several months working on condensing each of the 66 books of the Bible into haiku form.

A North Irwin man summarized each book of the Bible in the form of haiku poetry in his first book, “The Haiku Bible.”

After participating in a Bible-study group, Chris Suehr, 25, spent several months working on condensing each of its 66 books into the 17-syllable form of poetry.

“I wanted to learn each book better and have a more condensed version of each book,” Suehr said. “I tried coming up with the key points of the different books, which I wanted to encapsulate in each haiku.”

Haiku poems are short, three-line poems. Each poem typically has five syllables in the first and third lines and seven syllables in the second line, Suehr said.

It took about four months to make each book of the Bible fit into the poem's style, said Suehr, who is in his final semester at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg.

“Each book was a challenge, since some books are 50 or 60 chapters long, while others are less than a page,” he said. “That's why identifying the themes became very important because I could have written 100 haikus for some of the books, and barely touched upon their theme.”

Because haiku poems are so limited in their format, Suehr said, it was a challenge to make sure each word fit the poem's syllable scheme.

“I spent hours, and sometimes days, fretting over every single word,” Suehr said. “It took about four months of pretty heavy work.”

Once Suehr completed all 66 haikus in April 2012, he submitted it to Wipf and Stock Publishers, in Eugene, Ore., and it was released last October.

Suehr said he hopes his work helps people become more familiar with the Bible and gain a better understanding of each of its books.

“I set up a framework to help with some of the really deep concepts, which are not readily apparent,” Suehr said. “The Bible is a big book, and ‘The Haiku Bible' might be a way for more people to start stepping into those waters.”

Suehr's father, the Rev. Clifton Suehr, pastor of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Irwin, said his son's work captures the essence of each of the Bible's books.

“I knew he always loved writing haiku poetry and that he had been interested ever since he was in high school,” Clifton Suehr said. “I was astounded and don't know how he did it, but these poems are an incredible summary of the Bible.”

Suehr plans to discuss “The Haiku Bible” at 1 p.m. April 20 at the Norwin Public Library as part of National Poetry Month.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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