When my mother was dying, my friend brought us two books of poems, an compilation of Jacqueline Kennedy’s favorite poems and an anthology of Edna St Vincent Millay.
I read to my mother as she was unconscious, breathing heavily. A good poem will wrap its arms around you, and in those days I needed constant embrace. At first it felt awkward; I hadn’t read a poem out loud since high school. But almost immediately, the words of St Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop and Yeats and Browning and Rilke brought me peace. They were just what I needed. I hope the beautiful words, the rhythmic stanzas reached down and healed a part of my mom as well.
I loved poetry during my adolescence. Walt Whitman’s earthy affections gave me delightful shivers, Sylvia Plath’s rhythmic pain chilled me, Kobayashi Issa opened my eyes, TS Eliot gave perfection in an imperfect world.
I read it. I wrote it. I was 2nd place for two years running in the Minneapolis-Ibaraki-Shi Sister City Haiku Contest (high school division).
And then I stopped.
Why do we abandon what we love, and cast away a part of our heart as though it were nothing special? Why are we so easily lost to ourselves?
To love poetry or softball or art museums or 1970’s romantic comedies or vintage cameras is part of what makes each of us unique and special. In the years I was not reading or writing poetry, I was turning away from who I am and what makes my life full and happy and beautiful.
Life is short, often difficult, and messy. We cannot delay what gives meaning and joy. Inviting in beauty, reuniting with a long-forgotten part of your soul can be as easy as picking up a book of poetry. Or going for a ride. Or tossing the ball around.
What things that brings you joy have you left by the wayside? How can you bring them back into your daily life?