Living With Poetry

In my meanderings though blog-land, I’ve happened to cross paths with Grete, whose beautiful blog (To Live A Poem) has inspired me to reconnect with some of my favorite poets.  Grete’s focus excites me, because she’s not simply reading poems for pleasure, nor is she dissecting them word for word to study symbols and rhythmic patterns…she’s living the poem, wrapping it around her life and using it to gain insight into her self and the world around her.

So I took up the challenge to live some of my favorite poems, and where better to begin than with Mary Oliver, and the poem I’ve typed out onto a small card and carried tucked away in my wallet for the past two years.  Each morning lately, as I’ve gone out to walk the dogs, I’ve written one stanza out and memorized it, repeating the words as I watch the world spring into life after the cold of winter.

When I am among the trees

Especially the willows and the honey locusts

Equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines

They give off such hints of gladness

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

These early days of spring the tiniest of blossoms have barely sprung from their buds, and the sky appears to be filled with a fine, green mist, the “hints of gladness” which will emerge in full leaf just a few weeks from now.  I feel that hopefulness in my own life these days~ a spring in my step as I walk onto the front porch, bathed in early morning sunlight. There is such hope in all this, such promise, that I can’t help but feel saved from the dark days through which I’ve walked in recent months.

I am so distant from the hope of myself

In which I have goodness and discernment

And never hurry through the world

But walk slowly, and bow often.

Because all too often I am so distant from the hope of myself, feel light years away from ever being the woman I want to be, from even knowing who that woman is.  Because all too often, all I do is hurry through the world, from one obligation to the next, never able walk slowly, or acknowledge the simple goodness and beauty around or within me.

Around me the trees stir in their leave

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say

And you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.

Such wisdom among the trees, such simple and perfect counsel, this mission of ours in the world…”to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”  To find that place where we fit – where the work that we do, the life that we live, is filled with people and things and activities that we love. 

So my morning walks this month have become a time to dwell within the poem, to live and breathe it while I move purposefully through the brisk morning air, to let the words mull and simmer in my brain and enliven my thoughts and spirit for the day.

To live a poem…



15 thoughts on “Living With Poetry

  1. Living a poem…a wonderful idea. I am noticing that poetry is popping up (again?) in many lives right now and in many blogs. i wonder that we realize how we need it, how the poets turn things this way and that for us to offer a better or different or layered view and how it makes us soar.
    I love Mary Oliver and have one of her collections on the ngiht stand but thanks for mentiong her here again cuz oh, how I can use a dose of poetry right now! Love the verse you chose. Love the clarity and rhythm … and your thoughfulness. Thank heaven for poets. (PS Am thinking of carrying a poem in my pocket – what a great idea. Will let you know what I find! This will be a fun thing to do…)

    • This is National Poetry Month, which probably accounts for some renewed interst in poetry out in the blogsphere. Poetry does cause you to look at things differently, and think differently too. I like your expression of poets “turning things this way and that” to offer us a better view. That’s it exactly 🙂

      Let me know what poem(s) you decide to carry in your pocket!

  2. I love poetry and yet rarely read it. Here is one of my favorites because it reminds me of the times my mother would take me in her lap and read to me.
    She taught me the love of books and that gift that has sustained me and given me extreme pleasure throughout my life.

    by Strickland Gillilan

    I had a mother who read to me
    Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
    Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
    “Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
    I had a Mother who read me lays
    Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
    Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
    Which every boy has a right to know.
    I had a Mother who read me tales
    Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
    True to his trust till his tragic death,
    Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
    I had a Mother who read me the things
    That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
    Stories that stir with an upward touch.
    Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
    You may have tangible wealth untold;
    Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
    Richer than I you can never be —
    I had a Mother who read to me.

    • I love that poem too 🙂 And it was my grandmother who read to me most often when I was little, although I never saw her read for pleasure herself. Wonder where in the family the love of books started?

  3. I’ve never heard The Reading Mother, and it’s a shame, because I had a mother who read to me incessantly.

    Luckily, she’s still with me and I can share this with her! In fact, I believe I might fancy it up a bit and make it part of a Mother’s Day gift 😉

  4. Becca,
    I enjoy Mary Oliver. She was born on my mother’s birthday, and Wild Geese is one of my favorite poems. What a lovely idea… live a poem.

  5. This post inspires me! Recently a friend told me that she wanted to be inspired. And now she spends her weekends walking through parks and taking photos. Living a poem is a similar example! I tend to believe the beautiful things I want out of life are so far away, yet they are usually right in front of me!

    This is my favorite poem by Mary Oliver:

    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 ~ (Dream Work)

    • Angie, I love that poem too. And it fits you perfectly, I think! You definitely seem like a woman who knows what she has to do, and does it. I love reading about your life journey 🙂

  6. To live a poem is a wonderful idea, Becca! We should all do a little of that. Mary Oliver is a favorite (she’s been popping up all over the place this month, so we are not alone)–and I adore the poem that Angie quoted. We have been given an absolute poem of a day here; it is time to roust the CS and take advantage of it. It is her last day home for a while, after all.

    Many thanks for this post.

  7. Becca –

    This is beautiful – the poem, your post. The tree lesson is certainly humbling, yet difficult. For what is more challenging than the easy? Somehow the word “complicated” is embedded deep into our very being.

    “To find that place where we fit” – yes, a task indeed. Yet this is the message of the trees: “It’s simple, it’s simple, it’s simple……” From where I sit, I see a giant birch, its spindly branches moving in step with the wind. It gives off an air of gladness, of “I am who I am”. May we all rest in that knowledge.

    Living a poem is just that – to be who I am. The poets’ language is like the original language. When I lean into the poem, I lean into myself. The poem is my mirror, as well as a total stranger. It is within me, and outside of me at the same time.

    angie mizzell – Living Mary Oliver’s The Journey is such a strong experience, every single word rings true, every sentence is a comfort and an encouragement to keep going. Writing about it was a reason to start blogging. I “lived the poem” in 7 different posts, from March 21 – April 4. Now it’s in my bloodstream…. 🙂


    • Grete, I’m happy to get to know you via Becca’s blog. “It is simple…” sometimes all I have to do is say that to remember that it is.

      Becca– such a powerful discussion this post has generated.

  8. Grete, thank you for your perspective on this poem, and your thoughts on the power of “living” a poem. “The poem is my mirror, as well as a total stranger.” There is much to ponder in those words.

    Thanks to all of you for your comments about poems that have moved you and informed the way you live.

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