Poetry has always had the ability to communicate things for me in a deeper way than any prose could achieve. And while I’ve never been an avid follower of poetry, there have been several poets who have been particularly significant to me. The first was Khalil Gibran and came in the form of his book, The Prophet, which was given to me by a good friend in high school. It was unlike anything I’d read before and it became my constant companion and inspiration for many years.
Later, The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, would impact me in a similar way. Beauty, love and wisdom radiate from Rumi’s poems. “The Guest House” is one of my favorites. And there are numerous short poems that I find beautiful and inspiring. One such example is: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ make no sense.”
Another poem that has been inspirational to me for most of my life is Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken.” While many of the choices I’ve made in life have been traditional, others have not. And as scary as it was to make those more unconventional decisions, they genuinely have been the ones that have “made all the difference.”
The poet Rainier Maria Rilke’s book Letters to a Young Poet, also made a difference to me. Not officially poetry but the poetic prose of letters written to young, sensitive aspiring poet. One of my favorite passages, a constant beacon for me, is in Chapter 4. “…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language…. the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Two contemporary poets whose works stand out for me are Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Oliver’s Dream Work, in particular, is dogeared and badly in need of replacement! So many of the poems in this volume left me feeling Oliver had crawled inside my soul, reading my deepest thoughts aloud. While I’m not sure I want to name any one entry as my favorite, her poem, “Wild Geese,” is always the first to come to mind. “You don’t have to be good….” spoke intimately to the girl in me who wanted to belong but never felt quite good enough.
Two David Whyte poem’s that have been similarly inspirational for me are “Self Portrait,” in Fire in the Earth, and “Sweet Darkness,” in The House of Belonging, which ends with “…anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” Both poems spoke to my quest to live more fully and authentically.
Poems and poets have seemed to come into my life at times when I was needing to hear what they had to say. They comforted and inspired me and broadened my world. What about you? Has poetry played a role in your life? Do you have a favorite poet or a particular poem that inspires you or brings you solace?