Poetry Will Save Your Life
A long time ago, on another blog, in another galaxy (well, it seems that long ago and far away), I wrote about a book I love, and a blog I enjoyed reading by Anthony Wilson. The book is called Lifesaving Poems, and it's really a perfect companion, in a certain way, for Jill Bialosky's Poetry Will Save your Life. I won't talk about Anthony's book today, but it's a beauty, and it's real, and it's a deep comfort. I've discovered poems and poets I'd not heard of reading his book and blog. When I cleared out about half of the books I own this spring, this one stayed. It's a keeper.
I love the Bialosky book for all the reasons I love Anthony's book. It answers all those questions about poetry: who is poetry for, what do we need poetry for, what is poetry good for? If you're a reader of poetry already, you will feel as though you met a kindred spirit, as Bialosky weaves a personal narrative amid poems that seem like generous gifts. When I came across a poem I'm familiar with, I felt I was seeing it with new eyes, new understanding.This is the kind of book you want to give everyone you know for their birthday. I love how the title declares, poetry will save your life. Because you know what, it will. It will comfort you, console you, challenge you, and open you up to new ways of thinking.
The book is also visually lovely, as you can see in the photos.
Poetry, and how it will save your life, and enrich your life, has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently read a conversation between the two extraordinary poets, Ellen Bass and Marie Howe, titled, Why Do We Turn to Poetry at the Important Moments in Our Lives? In it, this is what Marie Howe says,
"Stanley Kunitz used to say that poetry is aware that we are both living and dying at the same time. We think, “Oh, my God. I’m alive.” And, “Oh, my God. One day I won’t be.” We experience the mystery of living on a planet, circling a star—the full catastrophe of living is so mysterious and unknowable. We’re hurdling through space, stuck to this planet by gravity. We’re not who we think we are. We don’t know what’s happening. So we make these songs to sing to each other. We make these sounds that both reassure us and urge us on, they help us sleep and help us wake up."
Who wouldn't benefit from having poetry in the workplace? As part of our everyday way of thinking about things. I enjoyed this article in the Harvard Business Review, titled, "The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals." The article quotes Sidney Harman as saying, “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”
But there are other ways of getting poetry into the workplace, without having to become a manager. Of course, I work in a fairly enlightened and literary place (the library), so it's not a big stretch to add poetry into that environment. In fact, years ago, my manager asked me to read a poem to open a staff meeting. Everyone seems to like this ritual and I've been doing this for most staff meetings for years. It focuses thought, it's elevating, meaningful. I know, for me, it makes my job much more meaningful.
What I think is most beautiful about Poetry Will Change Your Life is that nearly any of us could write a similar book. We could match up things that have happened to us, with poems that have changed us, or made sense of things for us.
Sometimes, just seeking out a poem that speaks to our situation, is a very energizing and consolatory act. And when we find that poet who says what we, too, have felt, what a human moment. What a connection. How sublime that is.