Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Power of Poetry

 We are down to one computer now, and as the children are now able to play games online, my time to be here is less than usual until we can afford a new computer.  So I haven't been on as much as I hoped the past two weeks, and right now it is 1 a.m. and I am heading to bed. Before I go though, I wanted to ask a question: 

If you read poetry, do you have a poem, a book of poems, or a poet, who saved your life?

I ask this because over at Terri Windling's blog, she has some Friday recommendations, among which is a link to a post by Michael Bourne, called Embracing the Other I Am, Or How Walt Whitman Saved My Life.  This is a wonderful post, about how at the bottom of his despair, he discovered the original poems Whitman published back in 1855, and they literally saved him. 

This has got me thinking about the power of words, of writing, of poets and poetry.  As many of you know, I read some poetry - Mary Oliver is my current favourite poet, teaching me how to bring my love of nature into my own writing even as I fall in love with hers.  There is something about poetry that lets our souls talk to one another that I've only found rarely in novels or other writing. 

The poet that comes to my mind who saved me, is Sylvia Plath. I found her at a difficult time in my life, when I was young and just leaving home - I left when I was 18, so very young it seems now looking back!  Her poetry was angry, and it was a revelation to me, that poetry could be powerful and say things that weren't nice.  Sylvia's poems are full of difficult ideas and themes, alienation from herself as well as her family, struggling to be an artist and to trust herself, and it was as if I suddenly saw myself reflected back to me in her words.  I could be angry, I could feel grief, I didn't have to be nice and pretend to be happy all the time.  It was shocking, and if now there are many more women poets who also write about what it means to be a woman today, for me Sylvia writes about what it is to be young and angry and trying to find out why, what it all means. Because of her I dared to begin writing poetry about how I really feel, and to stop hiding from even myself.  I think she saved me, also.  Ariel was her book of poems I discovered this way.

So, is there a poet whose words reached out to you and showed you yourself, or life, in a new way? 

The wonder of books, is that they are just waiting for us to find them, no matter how much time passes. This is a miracle I am grateful for, this very early Sunday morning at 1 a.m.   May we always find the books we need, when we need them.

Happy reading, everyone!

6 comments:

Kailana said...

Yeah, we only have one computer by choice and I am starting to regret it. I had updated my blog everyday so far in July and I missed yesterday because I couldn't get near here. :(

animewookie said...

"May we always find the books we need, when we need them." Love this :D

Jeff Rivera said...

I mostly admire a poem when it really speaks and reaches out to realities of life and not something blissfully superficial and fancy.

Susan said...

Kailana: It's harder than it seems, isn't it, to have one computer only. I'll have to come what you've written. I'm impressed if you did almost every day.....

animewookie: thank you!

JeffRivera: Yes, exactly. It feels like one soul talking to another, and it's magical when it happens.

GeraniumCat said...

Sylvia Plath was very important to me, too, when I was young, and her influence probably showed much too much in my own poetry. But the poets who have sustained me all my adult life are Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mervyn Peake and T.S.Eliot, who all have a permanent place on my bedside bookshelf (and in my head). But if I had to talk about art that saved my life it would be baroque music, which creates a space where I can be unhappy in safely when I need it. When my stepbrother died suddenly I lived with a constant soundtrack of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, literally through my headphones and metaphorically in my mind, and it got me through it. Handel's Xerxes kept me sane during a horrendous year when something very bad happened in the community where I lived (must be why Three Pines seems so familiar!). Xerxes is sort of funny, but contains some glorious, passionate - and desperately sad - music. I had a video of the opera which I played almost every night, and cry. Then I could go to work the next day and not cry when I talked with people who had lost family members. That year my preference changed permanently from instrumental music to sung, so it's still about the power of word and poetry. Sorry, long answer, but it struck a chord :-)

Bybee said...

This turned out to be a poetry year for me, thanks to Al Purdy. I have one more book of his on my shelf that I'm saving and planning to savor.