Category Archives: Deeper Sensation

What is it about poetry?

What is it about poetry that “gets us right there?” It’s National Poetry Month, so I am asking.

Dr. Raphael Campo, a poet and physician at Harvard Medical school, puts it this way: “When we hear rhythmic language and recite poetry, our bodies translate crude sensory data into nuanced knowing — feeling becomes meaning.”

Imagine, a poet-physician arriving at nuanced knowing, the very place where feeling becomes meaning. It seems almost impossible doesn’t it? That our bodies are the translators. But who better than the ones who study the body to heal the body, to interpret the language it begets?

Not just the lub-dub, lub-dub in the rhythm of a heart beating. Surely, its beats per minute indicating healthy or not. Its volume signaling functional or not.

Not just the whoosh in, whoosh out of the respiring lungs. Their filling and emptying is surely essential to the operation of the organism.

Not just the electronic whir of signal transmission of the brain. And not just the regular pulse of blood through the arteries.

Not just and yet I can’t help but think that rhythm recognizes itself. Knows its kin. Tunes in and pays special attention to its own. That the body responds to poetry because the body is poetic. Lyrical. Creation set in motion. Without prompting or instruction, the toddler sways, the child twirls, the partners step toe to toe.

Just so, my soul recognizes and delights in rhythm. But there’s more to the poetic than rhythm. And that’s why it begs us to read it aloud, recite it, hear it spoken or performed. Verbalized, the poetic allows us to both gather the outline and sketch in the details. To give shape to the form and pour in the color. To chew and swallow, taste and smell. To bring it to life.

Just as the mind does for a well-told story. We know it. We feel it. It has meaning for us and uniquely to us. It draws out what is true from within us, and speaks urgently to our “right now.” Because that’s what we bring to it. And blessedly, so blessedly, we can all gather around poetry because there is not just one right answer.

Mind you, not just willy-nilly words will do this. It’s the culled, cultivated, carefully chosen words that settle deep. The true poet uses words and phrases expertly arranged with an ear for rhythm, a sense of style, how one word will relate to the next, and a feeling for how they will settle on their hearers. Though we each receive them in a slightly different way, if we dare to attend without withholding, poetry has the potential to wake up the poetic in us. To shed light in our darkness, to lift burden from our bearing, and to clarify our way into each new day.

We are all poets. Words animated. Sculpted from the raw materials gifted at first light. Honest words if we are brave enough. And so helpful in their moment to get us through our moment.

How does poetry work on us?
as art... it feels

I feel everything.
I feel the loud.
I feel the crush of bodies.
I feel the eyes on me.
I feel the distance between us.
I feel the, no one is talking to me.
I feel the, everyone has a friend but me.
I feel the invisible.
I am invisible.

Let me go.
I'll be going.
I'll show myself out.

Hey, what's your name? 
she called, as I turned to leave.
I'm Deborah.
I want to meet you.

Wendy, I tell her.
I was almost Wendy, she says, 
Until my mother's
mother in law said I couldn't be.

I love the name, Wendy.
I've always wanted to be Wendy.
Wendy suits you.
So glad to meet you.

I feel the quiet.
I feel the smile.
I feel the distance close.
I feel the visible.
I am visible.

Oh, Dear Poetry, you reach in and touch the deepest parts of us. May we be brave enough to endure it and bold enough to believe it so we can proudly proclaim it.

What makes art, art?

What makes art, art?
What makes worship, worship?
What makes beauty, beautiful?

what wants to be expressed?
longs to come out,
to be displayed, 
to be offered,
as gift of delight, inspiration or awe.

what wants to take shape?
to be recognized, 
to be known,
to be understood,
as the beauty, the spark, that responds.

The. Oh! Ahh... Yesss!
of art, worship, beauty,
the trinity of emotion,
drawing out
the hidden, invisible, still.

unlike the cough, which the tickle propels,
unlike the sneeze, which the dust mite ignites,
unlike even the rage, which erupts from the hurting

No. This.
This calls 
from outside,
from elsewhere,
to neither erupt, propel or ignite

It calls out,
calls up,
evokes and elicits;
It compels, 
yes, without my permission,
yet absent inhibition.

I gasp. I startle. I laugh.
Where did you come from?
Flowing from me 
but surely not of me;
Yet, not a surprise to me.

this joy
this awe
this wonder

This worship
This oneness
This humanity

The hidden, invisible and still,
has been waiting
inside me

For
what art sees
what beauty says
what God does

to bring me to life.
 

The human chain of life

I had a dream, under a cloud be-speckled blue sky

that we all joined hands
with our nearby neighbors,
to the right and to the left,
whose opinions, possibly,
probably, almost certainly,
differ from our own.

Me with thee and thee with thou
until we reached the end of the lane,
the boundaries of the neighborhood,
the extent of the town, 
the limits of the principality, 
across the borders of countries,
over the oceans, lakes and rivers
until we encircled the world.

We formed a human chain 
spanning races, nations, cultures,
crossing opinion, without distinction 
... gradually, 
incrementally, 
hardly noticeably;
bridging every gap,
    grip by grip,
person by person.

No one concerned about
contaminating viruses 
sticky fingers 
or dirt under the fingernails.

So grateful were we 
for the touch of another human, 
we gave no thought to 
where the chain would lead,
how or where it would link up
with the other side
on the other side 
because there would be no other side.

Just the one continuous connection.
Incremental effort,
tugging us in 
each others' direction,
extended arms 
encircling Mother Earth.

She, who has the final word;
Her Pull is the gravitational hug that grounds me, 
as the strength of connection tugs me
toward you on my right and you on my left --
and you toward your neighbor,
whose hands you hold
for the sake of all life.
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