I recently taught a workshop in poetry writing and I was amazed at how many different people are writing and/or reading poetry these days. I really think of poetry as a way of life, rather than just a genre I use to write.
Mary Oliver said it best, “Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket you put your life into and make something out of that.” The words of a poet are born from the heart of someone who wants to tell a story of the many layers and textures of the complications, suffering, and joys of life. People also want to read these experiences in poems and see their own stories in them. Poetry creates identity and connects us as a world community.
Poetry identifies, gives names—to feelings, desires, and inner complexities. Poets like Audra Lorde knew the hazards of “misnaming” things. She encouraged women, especially black women, to speak out and “to identify yourself, otherwise someone else will do it for you.”
Walt Whitman lived in a time of turmoil, during the United States’ Civil War and assassination of it’s president, Abraham Lincoln (immortalized in O Captain! My Captain!) Many of his poems encourage people to celebrate their shared humanity and inherent commonalities. “I sing the body electric, The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, They will not let me off till I go with them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.”
I recently wrote and published a book about my partner’s dying of Alzheimer’s Disease. I was not aware of how many people are affected by this dread disease until I began readings from the collection. It was a shared humanity that people were responding to. Take a look at the collection here:
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I visualize world peace in my meditations in these difficult times.