“For many years, I was afraid of poetry. I felt as though it was a secret language that belonged to an elitist club, which I had not been invited to join. Though I loved poetry as a child, my experience in high school had stifled my spark….Twenty-five years later, in the midst of a suicidal depression, poetry poured back into my life, touching me in a way no spiritual or psychological teaching had been able to—literally saving me. The healing did not come through writing poems or even through reading them. It came when I discovered that taking a poem I loved deeply into my life and speaking it aloud caused a profound integration of every aspect of me—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I felt a wholeness I had never before experienced. I felt like I was flying. I was speaking the truth, and the truth was setting me free.” (Kim Rosen)
I’m sure we can all relate to this testimony. Whatever our relationship to poetry, many of us feel that we don’t really “get it”, or perhaps don’t really understand or want to make space for it in our lives.
But maybe we’ve been engaging with poetry in a way that is sterile, soulless, academic. The answer to “understanding poems”, but even more importantly to understanding ourselves, may lie in the act of mindful reading and reciting, at our own pace, getting those poems written onto our bones. Then perhaps beginning to speak them aloud: both to ourselves, as well as to others, sharing what we’ve discovered along the way.
Kim Rosen has taught me more about this than anyone else. You can listen to her reading me something she loves (a poem by Marie Howe) over here.