I have something to admit: I have always been a bit afraid of poetry. This may not seem like a hugely shameful secret, but, as a former English major, it is embarrassing. I love words, reading and writing. It is common for me to get goosebumps when reading a perfectly-put phrase or a powerfully-evocative description. I should love poetry, right? However, I have generally found it baffling. Sometimes I have responded to this by criticizing myself: I must be defective; I have too much left brain, not enough right; I don't have enough knowledge to understand the references. Other times I have criticized those who love poetry, deciding that they must be pretending and pretentious. However, these attitudes have kept me from exploring something that I think I could really come to love.
There are two things that have pushed me toward poetry in recent years: 1) the 8-week mindfulness course I teach makes use of poetry, and 2) one of my favourite yoga students, Peter Crosby, recommended a poetry podcast to me called "Poetry Unbound." I was surprised to find that the poems chosen for the mindfulness course not only made sense to me but also resonated with me. Then, I began to listen to "Poetry Unbound" in the spring of last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, and found it comforting at a tough time. Given that the host, Pádraig Ó Tuama, has the most beautiful Irish accent, I would likely find him reading a grocery list comforting; however, I also find the poems he choses and his discussion of them accessible and enlightening.
I have decided to face my fear and dive into this poetry thing by drawing the class themes for my next 10-week yoga session from poetry. I have chosen a number of poems that I find evocative. I will read the poem at the beginning of the class, lead a yoga practice that fits with one of the central themes of the poem (at least what I consider to be a central theme) and end the class with a reflection question.
I accept that there will always be poetry (likely most poetry) that will elude me. However, I am willing to give poems a chance. I hope that many of you will be willing to join me on this journey.
You can register for the Spring 2021 session by clicking here. Not sure you can commit? There are lots of options, from one-class drop-ins to 15-class packages.
Here is a list of the poems I have collected thus far. Click on the names to read the poems. Please send me any other poems you think I should check out (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade by Brad Aaron Modlin
Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens (one of the few poems I read as an English major that I felt like I "got")
Some Things I Like by Lemn Sissay
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
Transubstantiation by Molly McCully Brown
A Blessing by James Wright
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
Walk Slowly by Danna Faulds
All My Friends Are Finding New Beliefs by Christian Wiman
Phase One by Dilruba Ahmed
The New Religion by Chris Abani
Gratitude by John O’Donohue
Prayer by Faisal Mohyuddin
For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing by John O’Donohue