Fall In Love Again With Poetry

November 3, 2009 at 3:52 pm , by

autumn leaves, very shallow focusToday you’ve probably read dozens of e-mails, news items, tweets and status updates. But when was the last time you heard someone recite a poem? For me, surprisingly, it was twice in the past week—in fact, I was pelted by poems like bright autumn leaves in the wind. I wanted to pile them up and roll in them. I’d forgotten just how therapeutic that could be.

First, at work I overheard two colleagues talking about poems having to do with autumn. I chimed in with the snippets I could remember from my school days: for one, Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…” (so charmingly butchered to “fruitlessness” by Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’s Diary). And then Shakespeare’s adorably mournful metaphor for his own aging in “That time of year thou mayst in me behold/when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,/Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.” Oh, and who could forget Robert Frost’s  “two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

But then Tom Claire, our associate managing editor, bowled me over by reciting one I’d never heard before, in its entirety. If you don’t know it, you should. It’s “The Importance of Autumn” by beat poet Lew Welch, from his out-of-print book Ring of Bone. (No, you can’t Google this poem, but if you post a comment asking for it here, Tom says he’ll e-mail it to you.)

SAVED BY A POEMNow my poetry pump was primed. So I read Kim Rosen’s beautiful new book Saved By A Poem: The Transformative Power of Words. It’s filled with stories of people whose lives were changed or helped by the power of a poem, including the author, who lost her life savings to Bernie Madoff. Guess what? Poetry sustained and inspired her through an incredibly difficult time.

Then I was lucky enough to be invited to a small gathering at writer Eve Ensler’s loft in New York City, where Rosen recited several of the poems from the book by heart—and from the heart. Hearing these poems spoken aloud reminded me of the power of language that is not tweets, not sound bites, not status updates. As Ensler wrote in the book’s foreword:

“Poetry is a form of revolution. It strengthens our muscle for care, our capacity for intricate metaphoric thinking, our appreciation for ambiguity. It take us out of the literal so that we can see what is real.”

What poems have helped you see what is real?

4 Responses to “Fall In Love Again With Poetry”

  1. I am a poetry lover. Yes, I can recite “The Road Less Traveled” by heart, but moreso it has resonated with me my entire life. As a child I learned “Reflections of a Gift of Watermelon Pickle” and reflect on the savouring of time and flavors long forgotten now more than I understood it then. Edgar Guest’s Americana poems are enjoyable as I can recall my Grandfather reading “Don’t Quit” to me as a young girl. I go to Robert Frost when I need calm as all his poems are favorites. (I winced while listening to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral and his son refer to Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening as “The Road Less Traveled” but then smiled that Frost was included at all.)

  2. I have been interested in poetry most of my life. My favorite poem is Annabelle Lee by Edgar Alan Poe. I found this when I was in Jr. High and it has since then stayed on top of the list. I would also love to read the “The Importance of Autumn” by beat poet Lew Welch, so I would be grateful for an email containing it. I also enjoy Robert Frost and who, that likes poetry has not read and fallen in love with Shakespeare

  3. i am in the middle of reading Saved by a Poem. it is my spiritual reading right now. i actually am able to find silence to immerse myself in it; since i take care of my mother and at the moment she is rehabbing elsewhere, the house is silent in the morning. i’d say my all time favorite poets are mary oliver and stanley kunitz. i love rumi and hafiz. i have recommended rosen’s book to all of my friends who love poetry. i plan on buying another copy for a friend’s birthday in january.

    please send me “The Importance of Autumn” — i’d love to read it!

  4. Could you please send me a copy of The Importance of Autumn? I’ve been trying to track it down. That would be lovely. Thank you! – Best regards.