"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Poetry and a kick-in-the-butt

Poetry and flowers. Photo taken by D. Bennett, April 2015.

I am not quite done with this poetry phase, yet. Or, more correctly, poetry is not done with me, yet.

I am still digesting the Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach volume which I checked out from my library. All week phrases have been jumping out of poems, some smacking me in the face, others burrowing under my skin, all chiding me to "fix my life." As with a sharp stick I am being poked and prodded to move forward in a positive direction.

Case in point, as I read "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Rilke* I felt lost and confused by the whole poem. It was as if I was reading another language by how much I understood, then suddenly an admonition as clear as day jumped out: "blah, blah, blah, blah. You must change your life." Of course, the poem doesn't have actual "blah blahs" in it but it might as well have. I am still not sure about the connection of the torso of Apollo and the need to change your life. But I was sure that the poem was speaking to me clearly. I need to listen to it. "You must change your life." OK, but how?

Seamus Heaney, in his poem "The Cure at Troy", speaks to my question and sets hope into motion and directs me to believe I have the ability to effect change within myself .
...Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
Look and look again. this poem tells me. I have the power within to change things. Isn't that an important message for all of us? And the poem by Robert Graves called "Warning to Children" asks me to notice the "greatness, rareness, muchness / Fewness of this precious only / Endless world in which you say you live." How dare I waste a single moment with inaction when this world has so much to offer and I have so little time to experience it all?

Even the title  of Wallace Stevens' "The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain" was enough to get me to take a "double-take of feeling." It is especially poignant since Mt. Rainier is an ever-present reality in my life and stands to represent all that is right and holy about life. Instead of a mountain we just have a poem here,
...He breathed in oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table...
It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction...
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion...
Ever feel that certain things you read give you the oxygen you need to survive and thrive? Here we are told that poetry can remind us to "go in our own direction", a direction which will make us feel unexpectedly complete. Break out those poetry volumes, folks! One might find an infusion of life-sustaining oxygen within. Who knew poetry was life-sustaining?

Mary Oliver asks us in her poem "The Summer Day",
...Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Hopefully the answer isn't to just exist. Don't we all want to explore, experience, and rejoice in a life well-lived? Shouldn't our life be one spent in service to others and in reverence to our creator? I have one precious life, I should not squander the opportunity I am given to make a difference with it.

Many poems I read this week reminded me there is no time like the present to get moving in the direction I want to go. Now. Vaclav Havel's poem "It Is I Who Must Begin", seems like a fitting close to this blog post:
It is I who must begin,
Once I begin, once I try---
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself...
No excuses, Anne, the time is now. Get going. Get up off the couch. Start now to live the life you want to live. Time is wasting. Get going.

Thanks, poetry. You've provided the kick-in-the-butt I've needed to start where I am right now to move in the right direction. Amen.

Source: Intrator, Sam M., and Megan Scribner. Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003. Print.

*Footnote: To my friends who tell me you just can't understand poetry, take heart from my example of "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Rilke. Sometimes there is just one line, one kernel of truth in a poem which is accessible to me, too.

P.S. (When all of creation makes sure you hear a message) As I write this blog post I've been listening to Pandora Radio, The John Michael Talbot station. Just as I was ready to hit PUBLISH, this song came on the radio, Here I Am, Lord. The chorus asks, "Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard your calling in the night." Time for action. No more excuses.


  1. Beautiful photo, and loving these poems. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Beautiful post! I agree with your realizations and carpe diem. xoxo

  3. I love when books like this really get me. So glad it is giving you inspiration and you are enjoying it. Great post!


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