When I was a college freshman, I fell in love with poetry and mathematics. I think that perhaps this was a form of intellectual rebellion because I know there are plenty of people who don’t care for either. I find poetry in particular is something that most people don’t feel like they have the permission to love because they can’t tell you how many syllables are in a haiku, the rhyme scheme of a sonnet, and struggle to follow things written in iambic pentameter.
Enter this lovely video I ran across of Naomi Shihab Nye (an excellent poet in her own right) sharing what it means to teach an appreciation of poetry.
If you don’t have 10 minutes to listen to Naomi Shihab Nye to tell you why you should love poetry, here are a few gems from her talk:
“Do I get jazz? No. I just love jazz.”
If someone says to you, ‘I don’t like poetry.’ she answers: “You just don’t like the poems you’ve read so far. You need to read more of them to find your poems”
(PSA: If you’d like to get to know a variety of poems and poetry, the Academy of American Poets does a “poem-a-day” email newsletter.) In February, the poet Clint Smith curated the newsletter and shared a series of poems written by people who are currently incarcerated that were some of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read.
Sometimes I Cry
I told a million lies now it’s time to tell a single truth
Sometimes I cry
It’s hard dealing with my pride
Not knowing whether to fight or flee
Sometimes I cry
Hard to maintain this image of a tough guy
When deep down inside I am terrified
If I ever told you I wasn’t scared I lied
Struggling to make it back
To society and my family
I cry for my son who I barely see
Due to these mountains
And me and his mom’s beef
I cry for my siblings who never knew their older brother
Because he stayed in the streets
I cry for my grandma who is now deceased
I cry for my life, half of which they took for me
I cry for my anger and rage
The only emotions I can show in this place
I cry for how we treat each other inside these walls
I cry for the lack of unity we have most of all
When will it end I want to know
Till then all I can do is let these tears flow
If you don’t love poetry yet, here’s Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
If you’d like to hear her read it, there’s a recording here,
In the meantime, I hope you have a lovely weekend.