Category Archives: poetry

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.

Love Opens

Love opens
courage steps
harm threatens
danger waits.

Love opens
timid stays
winds blow
through and through.

Unlove
stands in the way that it does;
preying on timid
obstructing, obscuring,
swirling, gusting.   

Love 
moves the way that it can;
creating chances
opening options
softening, seasoning. 

Love opens
minds and hearts, 
doors and windows.
Clearing channels of communication
finding its way.

Love opens
onto a way
of saying 
what needs saying.

Love builds 
by invisible hands
which craft and construct,
mend and heal.

Love dreams --
real as any 
hard fact so we wait,
we hope.

Love imagines
what can happen
when soul by soul
together we pray.

Where unlove 
shouts, "Make way!"

Love makes a way
where there was no way

so good can go about its business
turning knobs and
carrying brides across 
thresholds.

Behold

There's a space for the love of God 
to fill me when I open up;
empty lungs want air
parched mouth wants drink
panging stomach wants food
the seeking soul opens for sustenance,
moment by moment.

Me me Me me Me me 
the baby birds cry, 
asserting themselves.
fill me. feed me. pick me.

Love does

Renewal

The whole world comes alive
when the sun rises.

One by one, two by two
they emerge
from east, from west, 
from every way and every other way,
whole flocks together
as if a heavenly call
has gone out and 
they're heeding its message.

Is it the rays, the light, the glimmer
that bids them come? 
the oranges, reds, the magenta
that dazzles and displays?
or something else I can't see, 
can't hear, can't comprehend?
Is there a knowing I don't know?
A joke I'm not in on?

Ashore, I stand
mired...heavy...earthen.
the only unflighted one of morning.
Astonished at their 
soaring, gliding, joyful shouting, 
"Here I am!" 
"Coming!" 
"Wait for me!"
Guzzling the good, good news of morning.

What a glorious day has come
and is coming
when we, 
weighted and terribly terrestrial 
loosen our ties and 
shed the lashing pinning our wings.  
 
And, with the rest, come
alive in the new day.
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