Why I Read Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and while I’ve neglected that fact here on the blog (sorry, readers!), I have been reading and re-reading some poetry this month. I read poetry because I believe it helps me re-visualize my life. It helps me look both inward and outward. When reading a poem, I stand apart from my real-time life for a few minutes, outside of the boundaries of time, rush, and duty. And I see my life hanging there, suspended, and I see how full of treasures it is. And then I see myself standing in it, and maybe I am telling someone what to do, or maybe I am picking up a sock for the hundredth time, or maybe I am frustrated, or maybe I am alone in my bathroom crying. And I want to whisper to myself, “You’re okay. You’re one of the treasures, too. Don’t forget to find them.” 

Poems make me do that. They make me remember that all of this means something. They make me remember that I mean something. I re-read a Mary Oliver poem last week, and it meant something completely different to me this time.

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

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began. 

I have to tell my story. I have to live my story. I have to let my voice free. I have to hope that it will carry goodness. I am rebuilding this. I am digging through the broken bricks, tossing away the ones I don’t need anymore, keeping the ones that still mean something, but the structure will be different this time, and it will be my own.

There was a new voice that you slowly recognized as your own.


*Check out my essay on poetry, with props to the movie Dead Poets Society, HERE. 

*Header image from Wikimedia Commons

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