Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Healing Power of Poetry

The more I open up my thought to the power of poetry, the more I see all the ways in which it can bring healing into our lives. It seems we could all use a big bunch of that, for many different reasons. Some of these reasons might be emotional, some physical, some financial. We are a world in need of healing.

As I mentioned yesterday, it seems poetry is appearing everywhere. Some of our fellow bloggers include a poem now and then, some have a certain day they post one. I see poetry in magazines, introduced and talked about in length. I just read an interview with Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. In this interview, which she almost never gives, she discussed the next phase of her life in which she felt she was becoming a bit more open, more personal in the telling of her life through poetry. She noted that she feels, at age 75, with the loss of her life partner, Molly, and in coming to terms with her troubled childhood, she's finally coming into her own. She also says she's discovered her sense of humor. Isn't that wonderful?   To discover new things about oneself at that stage of life?   To do so at any age allows us to walk through new doors, into new adventures.

I had another poem, by another poet, all picked out for today, but then I read this one by Mary and knew I wanted to share it. I recognized myself in her words. Perhaps some of you will, too. That is the power of poetry.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations --
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver



  1. I have been falling back in love with myself, finding pieces of me that I've cast aside through the years. I loved this entry and the poem is beautiful, thank you.

  2. A passionate thought, I really enjoy Oliver.I think we examine our world deeper when writing verse and it helps sort out our thoughts.

  3. I've learned to love poetry as well; reading and writing it can provide an outlet for every emotion, from heartbreak to exuberance to quiet contemplation. I hope you are going to give writing some a try?

  4. Fluid Idleness, Your path sounds similar to my own. Falling love with oneself is most important. It allows us to love others more fully, too.

    Steve, It does help sort out our thoughts, which can bring healing into our lives.

    li, Poetry does cover the gamut of emotions, of life. I have written poetry, off and on, since I was a very young child. Some will never see the light of day, some already have, some perhaps at another point. thank you for the encouragement.

  5. A lovely poem . I write poetry because it helps me to get in touch with the emotions that flow like a white-water river inside of me. Good poetry just reaches out and pulls you into it's grasp.

  6. I certainly recognized myself in that poem, but also my sister, who needs to read this one as she tries to find herself after loss. Thank you so much, Teresa, very timely poem by another of my favorites, Mary Oliver.

  7. I like what Paul said, "Good poetry just reaches out and pulls you into it's grasp."
    Have a sunny Sunday

  8. Mary Oliver is a genius. I mentioned on your post yesterday that poetry is also about death which is a love gesture in itself. Here's one that truly is a love poem:

    "A Ghost Story" by Ted Kooser

    Her life was plain, her death
    a common death—a girl
    sewn into the watery shroud
    of pneumonia. She was only
    another Mary, there
    in Illinois, and it was only
    another April—the buds
    of the honeysuckle folded
    in prayer. Forgotten eyes,
    forgotten smile, the cowlick
    in her hair forgotten;
    everything gone. Yet for
    seventy years her grave
    gave off the scent of roses.

    "A Ghost Story" by Ted Kooser, from Weather Central. © The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

  9. Paul, " a white-water river inside of me," is such a good way to describe those emotions. Very apt image. I, too, like what you say about poetry....

    DJan, As I read your post this morning, I thought that your sister might find some value in the ideas presented in Ms. Oliver's poem. A good exclamation point to how poetry can heal.Thank You.

    Manzi, I agree, Paul's words are right on. Have a good Sunday and Happy spring!

    Kate, I Love Ted. I mentioned him in a post awhile back. This man from Nebraska who became our Poet Laureate. This poem you've shared is so nice. The beauty of simple words well-chosen and well-placed... Nobody does that better than Ted.

  10. I was at the Oakland Airport last night and was very excited to see a display on poetry. It even had a poem being read over and over again! Yeah!

    Love, love, love Mary Oliver!

  11. Thanks for the poem, I am on a journey of discovering myself.

  12. Such beautiful words. The verse speaks to many of us I'm sure. Thank you for sharing this. I will read more of her poetry.

  13. Huh? Oh, sorry, I was totally distracted by Sam Cooke's "Change is Gonna Come." When did you add the playlist? Now I'm off to read some more Mary Oliver. I love the concept of falling in love with oneself. I think it's the reason I was able to enjoy life as a single person, while other folks I know never could. Even when one is in a relationship, love of self is still a valuable commodity - it means one has more to give.

  14. Paul! Doesn't he? I just love that guy, his quiet life is so full of grace.

    Betty! See what I mean? It's everywhere! And I love it. What a nice way to pass time at the airport.

    Teri, I'm so glad you stopped by. Discovering the Self, and its implications for my relationships with others, has been my life's journey. I think that our community of bloggers is a fine group to share that journey with. We need to remember that it's meant to be filled with joy!

    Nancy, LOL I have had that playlist there for at least a year. :) Isn't it interesting how we focus and sometimes miss things around us? I've done it, too! I Love that Sam Cooke song. It was big again when Obama was running for president and Seal did a great version, with a wonderful B&W video.

    I really appreciate what you've said here about falling in love with oneself, and its value in developing healthy relationships with others. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  15. Wild Bill! Thank you! I'm glad this appealed to you. I thought it might.... I trust you're seeing spring popping out on this first day.

  16. Teresa,
    I'm so glad you brought this subject up...I agree poetry is so healing and powerful and it's nice to read lovely words such as Mary's. I like the essence of 'you can only save yourself' and how true that is but we are forced to look at our own selfishness.

    Have a wonderful day~

  17. Hi Tracy, I think selfishness is one of those words that often gets misused and wrongly defined. There are selfish people in this world, or so it seems, I've been selfish myself a time or two. :) I'm learning that it's essential to maintain a loving and healthy balance. I hope you're having a wonderful day, too. Thank you.

  18. I am only just discovering poetry, just as I am only just discovering myself. Poetry to me is a written version of ballet; it creates music in me.

  19. Marilyn, That is a very nice thought: poetry as a written version of ballet. Absolutely. Poetry and self-discovery seem to go hand in hand.

  20. This is a lovely post. I love poetry and always read it aloud. I love too how Marilyn above says to her it is ballet. The older I become the more I see all the arts as one big dance. I love your words Teresa Evangeline.

  21. This poem is so right on for me now, my own 'white water river of emotion' and the 'healing power' of poetry.

  22. Joan, "the arts as one big dance." That is so lovely and so true. Thank you.

    Linda, I could really relate to those words of Paul, too. And, yes, poetry can be very healing. It provides comfort and strength.

  23. I have been enjoying your posts on poetry, Teresa, I have a bookshelf devoted to poetry and am reminded by your well placed words that I need to pull them out more often, be still, and listen. Thank you.

  24. Thank you, Penny. Those books of poetry are a treasure trove ready to be opened.