The Gift of Poetry

As I consider what I’m thankful for during this week, reciting a list that includes my husband and children, my health, my work, my community and extended family seems inadequate.  Instead, I’ll say that I’m grateful this Thanksgiving for the gift of poetry, which I’ve been delighted to rediscover during the past year.  From time to time I open collections of poems to read on my own and have especially enjoyed attending several readings.

As indulgences go, poetry should receive much higher consideration.  It nourishes the spirit without harm to the body, so it’s personally healthy.  With a minimal carbon footprint, it’s sustainable ecologically.  And it’s inherently economical, expressing profound truths with minute details and sharp images.

The two poems below, from a collection called Poems to Live by in Uncertain Times (ed. Joan Murray, Beacon Press, Boston, 2001), express my sense of gratitude right now.  As I typed them, I realized they also resonate with the end-times theme of the liturgical year now coming to a close.

Otherwise 

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise.  I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach.  It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

At noon I lay down

with my mate.  It might

have been otherwise.

We ate together

at a table with silver

candlesticks.  It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

Jane Kenyon

The Peace of Wild Things 

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron

feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

In further gratitude, I want to acknowledge my friend, poet Mary Anne Reese, for her encouragement in all things poetic and creative.  Check out her forthcoming book of poetry, Raised by Water, available for pre-ordering from finishinglinepress.com

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2 Responses to The Gift of Poetry

  1. Liz Keuffer says:

    What’s really cool about this is that if you read both the poems line for line together straight across, they make a whole new, oddish poem.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. Stephanie Thomson says:

    What beautiful thoughts! Thanks for sharing them. Have a wonderful holiday!

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