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How Poetry Changes The World - A Conversation...

This morning I walked back from the little grassy haven overlooking our mountains here in the Rogue Valley to the East after sitting with a little bit of rain falling and abiding there for a while in the ritual I have given myself for the last few months. I walked through hundreds of red leaves plastered by moisture to the ground, and thought about all the leaves of thought and impulse and currents of response that have come to me as I began reaching out to people distant from me in just a little less than two weeks.
Before this weekend, I asked the question on Facebook, “ How Does Poetry Change Our World?”. I am sitting with this question because I decided not too long ago that I want to share my work with a much wider circle of people, and my work is woven together with poetry - poetry that demands my attention the way that Robert Frost describes it: “ The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken a mortal wound – that he will never get over it.” As a musician, it is almost impossible for me to hear words that call me toward an extraordinary experience and not be inspired to bring music into that experience, to add my voice and magnify the beauty I have found.
Here I am, then, walking, thinking of all the responses I got to this question, and how over the last two weeks, people have paid attention and also not paid attention, strangely circling around the phenomenon of one artist’s presence in the online world we navigate every day.
The most baffling response I got – although I know it was an honest one – was “poetry helps people escape from reality, specifically that global overpopulation is killing all life on our planet, much like Nero fiddling while Rome burns...”
This raises the question, what is real? Because another eloquent answer was, “ Through poetry, we connect to the real and leave the unreal behind.”
Almost everyone who commented made a connection between poetry and the soul, and that happened enough times to think that there are many people who believe they can feel something like a soul, and that poetry is a language through which the soul speaks. It is definitely a language we are not accustomed to. William Stafford called poetry, “lucky talk”. He was fond of downplaying the erudition of it, and eager to open us all to the sense that we are encountering it much more often than we think. Someone asked him, “When did you first become a poet?”, and he answered “Everyone is born a poet - a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question is: Why did other people stop?”
The response that moved me the most – although they all did – was a private message from a woman who came to one of my concerts probably more than three years ago. She described how much a part of her family life poetry had always been, how her family played a “poetry game” where each family member said a line from a poem and the others had to guess what poem that was from. And that would be a beautiful game to play, I think. But then she described how in this summer just passed, her 22 year old son had been in a mental hospital, diagnosed with schizophrenia and in the week before he took his own life he sat with her and a book his aunt had created, a collection of poems they had loved together, and marked one that reminded him of how he loved to run. He was a runner, a champion runner, and this poem spoke something to him and became one that was written on a card that was handed out at his Life Celebration:
One Morning
I remember my littlest one in a field
running so hard at the morning in him he kicked the heads off daisies.
Oh, wild and windy and spilling over the brim of his sun-up juices
he ran in the dew of himself. My son.
And the white flower heads shot like sparks
where his knees pumped, and his hot-shod feet
took off from time, as who knows when ever again
a running morning will be so light-struck,
flower-sparked-full between him and me.
John Ciardi

From this story, from this poem, I see that one way that poetry changes the world is that it breaks your heart open. I cried when I read this. And often, that is what happens when I am touched by a poem. There is wonder there, and a way of feeling something underneath – a current – that I believe we all belong to. Another woman who responded, emphasized the way that poetry “bypasses much of cognitive judgement or thought”. And that is one of the things I love about it the most. If there ever was a way to save the world, it might come if we could let go of our rigid attachments to certain ideas and begin to wander together in the world where there are answers waiting to be discovered.
According to one view, I am an escape artist, and I am distracting all of you from seeing that we are killing ourselves by the way we are living on the planet. Coming from a mysterious place inside myself, one that appears to live inside some numbers of other people, I am being hurled into a greater connection with all of you, through this journey of walking with words and music. I think it is my work. I do not know if I am employed, if I am working for you, or with you, if I will be sustained through this work. If you feel moved to assist, please go to www.patreon.com/poetrysandwich and think of a commitment you can make of a few dollars – maybe the same amount you might give to a person on the street in this world where perhaps we have overpopulated so much that we are killing ourselves, and in fact, some of us find ourselves homeless.
Maybe we are all looking for a way home and it is only through a steadfast love of each other and the things that move our hearts that we will find it. Poetry seems determined to be to us a guide, an adventurer and a companion on that quest.


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  • Response
    Response: Felicia32
    Any way I'll be subscribing to your As for me, i don't appreciate that .They have to change their opinion about whom to f*ck, cuz that's rea'lly delirious. Even an essay writer proved my words.
  • Response
    Great informative site

Reader Comments (1)

Poetry, the RIGHT poem, creates beauty where there is no beauty...meaning where there is no meaning, peace where there is no peace, light where there was only darkness. It medicates, mends and caresses every broken place.

November 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

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