The other day, I woke up with the quote in my head from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day.”
“…what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And I started thinking: where is the poetry in my life lately?
I used to find it everywhere. I used to swim in it. It used to be part of my daily existence. But recently, I’ve been so focused on, I don’t know…Living? Making money? Worrying? The space in my heart and mind for poetry got crowded out, I guess. And just when I started pondering that, what do you know? All this beautiful poetry started appearing.
On a random Facebook posting of someone’s, I read this,
“I’d cut my soul into a million different pieces just to form a constellation to light your way home. I’d write love poems to the parts of yourself you can’t stand. I’d stand in the shadows of your heart and tell you I’m not afraid of your dark.”
Going to watch poets was one of my favorite things to do when I lived in Austin, TX. I’d go to Ego’s and experience poets doing their thing. (Now, the Austin Poetry Slam takes place elsewhere.) It was so inspiring and exhilarating. I wonder what those poets who held me breathlessly captive in that dive bar are doing now. They were housewives and software salesmen and teachers and plumbers and all kinds of people in their “day” lives who would show up every Wednesday night and express life so vividly, so viscerally, through poetry spewed forth with intense vitality, humor, truth, and plain sheer guts. You just felt so fully alive when you left. Like they’d plugged you into their electricity of observation and source, so you felt what they felt but also felt your own stuff. They opened you up to observe and feel in your own way. They even inspired all us lay peeps in the audience to write our own poetry. (At least this one lay person.)
I hope they’re writing and performing still—releasing that kind of passion and intelligence into the ethers can only make the world a better place.
A few hours after I discovered Andrea Gibson’s poetry, I went on a walk in my neighborhood, and when I’d almost arrived back home, I ran into two butterflies doing a dance. Just right there on a street under the Hollywood sign, with garbage dumpsters and me as their audience. I watched them for a while and had to try to take a few photos to capture the magical butterfly dance. I noticed their shadows dancing with them below. It seemed to go on forever, and they never got tired. I wonder how long they continued before resting, or if they ever did.
See their shadows dancing? ^
Then this came my way via the wonderful Brain Pickings:
“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
Robert Frost, Letter to Louis Untermeyer, 1916
“Heed the words of Robert Frost. Start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy lovesickness, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now, not two weeks from now. Now.”
Yes. I don’t think I need to expound upon this. I know I don’t want to.
Take what you want from these poets and their work: Mary Oliver, Andrea Gibson, Robert Frost, Debbie Millman, and the butterflies. That’s what it’s for. (And you can end your sentences with prepositions if you want to. In poetry, anything goes.)
Elise Ballard is the author of the book, Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage, and Transform, a heartfelt journey full of amazing stories of fascinating people, from world-renowned figures, thought leaders, and performers—such as Maya Angelou, Dr. Oz, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra and Barry Manilow—to former inmates, leading psychologists, teachers, homemakers, and many more. To learn more about Elise and Epiphany Channel, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
*Image courtesy of happydog.