"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=========

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead

This past weekend, on my 24-hour Readathon, I finally cracked open and jumped into another poetry collection by the Center for Courage and Renewal, Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner. I loved the first two volumes, Teaching with Fire and Teaching with Heart and I wasn't disappointed by this third volume of poetry and thoughts from various leaders in our society.

Since the first volumes focused on teaching and I am a teacher so  I found more within their pages that spoke to me but there were some real jewels that jumped off the pages. These I will share with you.

I am nearing the end of my working life. Retirement is looming on the horizon. Sometimes I find myself thinking about the future more than what is happening in my present life. In "Wild Geese" by Wendall Berry I am reminded I have what I need right now and it is worth paying attention to.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds,
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
A lot of my focus these days is on American politics. It has been a horrifying and disturbing few months. One would think if one or the other of the candidates wins that the whole world will fall apart. Thank goodness for poetry like "The Irony of American History" by Reinhold Niebuhr, which reminds me "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime therefore, we must be saved by hope." Well, I am hoping for good things to come!

This has been a hard start to a school year. Marge Piercy's poem "To Be Of Use" is cathartic for me. I cling to these words which reward me for my hard work,
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows....
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
If I ever feel insecure and unsure of myself, I am in good company. Shakespeare himself confesses to feelings of inadequacy in Sonnet 29 when he compares himself to others, and wishes he had "this man's art, or that man's scope.

I love many of the poets' works in this volume: Nami Shihad Nye, Denise Levertov, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Rumi, and Langston Hughes. It is like meeting old friends again when I read their poems. Billy Collins makes me laugh. Mary Oliver sends me out to pay attention to nature. Langston Hughes helps me understand the dignity of life of all people and races. Nye and Levertov speak to me and for me. And Rumi is so spiritual. His poem "Childhood Friends" addresses the issue that is worrying me right now, the health of family members. In the poem he talks about trusting the teacher or the surgeon and encourages his reader to be aware of the miracle of healing (light entering us). I am blown away by his words. 
Don't turn your head, Keep looking
at the bandaged place. That's where
the light enters you.
     And don't believe for a moment that you're healing yourself.
And finally I found poems within this volume that speaks to my grief over the recent death of my father-in-law. In fact, only poetry and psalms have reached in and addressed that grief where other books and readings have left me feeling flat.  Henry Nouwen's "Work Around Your Abyss" speaks to the need of working through the pain of my grief, 
There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You
will never succeed in filling your hole, because your
needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it
so that gradually the abyss closes.
Nouwen goes on to explain that the pain is so enormous the temptation is to flee from it but he warns that is not a good idea if you want the wound to heal.

Poetry has done it again. It has spoken to my soul and I am better for it. I loved this volume, Leading From Within.


  1. Sounds like quite a collection - I might need to check out The Irony of American History.

  2. Wonderful words! They make me want to write poetry, not just read it.


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