. . . and poetry is for times of crisis.
Last month, as I posted poems during National Poetry Month, I got a lot of comments about how relevant and meaningful the poems were. How timely they were. How the messages were so important right now. And I got a lot of comments suggesting that maybe I should keep sharing poems.
Poetry was definitely resonating!
So I did a little research about poetry and times of crisis, and it turns out that . . . yes, indeed, people often turn to poetry when they are troubled. Poetry gives voice to people and inspires the human spirit. It enhances our communities while provoking and challenging us all to think bigger, to see things differently. Poetry gives us both language . . . and space . . . to fill in our own words and experiences.
The Amerian Academy of Poets first launched National Poetry Month in 1996, with the simple goal of helping people discover the power of poetry to "find comfort, resilience, and connection." Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, has stated that more and more people are turning to poetry “because amid fear and uncertainty, poetry can help bring needed strength.” It can render “tranquility” and bears the “power to bring us together.” She compares poetry to hope -- a salve in a time of anxiety, fear, and social isolation.
In a recent Guardian article, poetry critic Mary Jean Chan has this to say about poetry in the time of pandemic:
"Something about the specificity of poetry allows it to crystalise experience, as if one were pausing time. The brevity of a poem and its precision help us tune out the world and its excesses, so we might return, if only momentarily, to ourselves. As more and more people practise social distancing, what we don’t do becomes just as important as what we accomplish, the way the silences and empty spaces in a poem are crucial to allowing the words that appear on the page to reverberate and sing."
And in a blog post, Anna Delamerced, a physician who uses poetry with hospitalized children, adds these words about the power of beauty in these challenging times:
"One final thing I’ve learned about poetry that is particularly relevant in these times, is that poetry accepts ambiguity. Poems have multiple meanings. There is no one, right way to interpret a poet’s words. Whether haiku or sonnet, free-form, or rhyme, there are as many ways to write a poem as there are to read one. I’ve read too many where I still don’t know the meaning, but was able to extract one of my own. Perhaps that’s the beauty of poetry – sitting in the gray, and still making meaning out of it. Still finding beauty amidst mystery and understanding amidst the confusion. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do amidst this crisis."
So, yeah. There really is something to the power of poetry . . . and especially in times of crisis. I'll keep sharing poetry for now. Because I'm "sitting in the gray, and still making meaning out of it."
And I have a feeling you might be, too.
The Way It Is
There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.
My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.
And maybe some poetry
Today's poem was published in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection, 2019, Green Writers Press, and edited by James Crews. Information about the poet can be found here.