Every day for the past several months, I have had this ritual:
I search for poetry. They can’t be too religious. Too esoteric. Too filled with allusions I don’t recognize. The language must be simple, candid. The poems must leave me with a sense of relief or wonder or reassurance. Then I know. Then I save them in a file on my desktop in a folder called New Poems. I pull them up when I need one for a class or for a friend. Years ago, when I owned a studio, I read poems all the time in my yoga classes. Students left the cereal bowls in the sink, dropped the kids at the bus. Left the doctors or the lawyers office, hung up the phone with the ex, picked up the wine, picked up the eggs, and arrived in a warm room, sat on the floor, closed their eyes and let themselves be read to.
Mary Oliver. Rumi. David Whyte. Marie Howe and Naomi Shihab Nye and Rilke. Rich. Angelou. Clifton. Collins.
For years, I studied how to place my body in a yoga pose. Where to put my big toes, how to shape my pelvis or set my gaze. I tried achingly hard to be that teacher who spoke about the body in all of its angles and edges. I loved finding the verbiage, the cues. The words that told the physical story. This is happening right now and you are making this movement, this shift in weight, this sensation possible. And better yet, you (the students) are choosing to feel this shape, this sort of pressure, this stretch — and warding off thoughts of the boyfriend who didn’t call; the husband who didn’t get it; the kid who refused to go to school; the shitty conversation with the ex; the business partner; the money you spent; the lie you told; the stomach ache you feel the pain you try to fix with medicine, with breathing, with cat-cow and with conversation over coffee with friends after yoga.
We don’t just have a body. We are a body. These are words I say in my classes. We are bodies who recognize when we are in the presence of something beautiful. At any given time.
That is why I think I have a crush on poetry right now.
A favorite poet of mine says that poetry doesn’t speak at you, nor tell you how to think. It’s an invitation to participate in a conversation. And if the words are arranged in such a way, are chosen with delicacy and consideration for the big ideas they try to convey then we get that aha, me too, and yes! I understand exactly what this ache, this loneliness, this regret, the magnificent beat of my heart feels like.
Every week I send an email with a selection from my New Poems folder to your inbox.
I choose ones which speak most presently to a moment in time. As if they are raising their hand to say pick me! And I often get an email from a subscriber that says, “This is just what I needed today.”
Wouldn’t that be a dream? If all we really needed was to read (or listen) to the right words at the right time?
And join the conversation that’s happening inside.