Giving Thanks for Poetry


I began my studies as a facilitator of poetry therapy in the early 2000s, having previously earned my living as a copywriter and editor. In poetry I found a language that was rooted in the soul, and that could, as the poet Adrienne Rich puts it, "open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire." Today, more than ever, as we face so much terror and devastation in the world, we need a language that can give voice to the immensity of what is going on––one that can "open locked chambers of possibility."

Says mythologist Michael Meade, we are not living through a war of civilizations but a battle for the soul of the world. A world that has been made flat by its devotion to the fast-paced horizontal path of progress at all cost. A world that has no room for the soul's deep dive into the vertical realm. Poetry can help us take that vertical dive.  And for this, I give thanks.

Information isn't sufficient to make a difference. If it was, would we be in the state that we're in today?  Instead, we bear witness to increasing polarization between peoples, nations, ideologies. So perhaps, given all this, we need a language that can contain nuance, paradox, that, in the words of the poet Rumi, can create a field out beyond ideas of wrong doing and rightdoing.

The language of poetry weaves us together. Writes Jane Hirshfield: There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror. Given this, even ISIS is a reflection of some part of the collective unconscious, in which, as it rises to confront us, we all share a responsibility for healing.

This is enough to make us gasp and turn our backs, but the power of poetry is that it can hold us in the tension. Writes Rumi: don't move the way fear makes you move.

Great poetry invites us to swim against the tide by holding the tension of opposites rather than forcing us into polarized and rigid perspectives. It demands more of us-- no easy answers or soundbites here. But rather a pulsing richness, in which juxtaposition thrives.

So this Thanksgiving let's celebrate the poets, for they give voice to the depths of the human experience. Let's read our favorite poems out loud or take the time to write our own (even bad poetry is good for the soul). Or share a poem below. For through poetry we enter a realm not of simplistic, short-term solutions, but of a profound soulfulness out of which real change can come.

I'll meet you there.