There’s a saying: “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” These days, the battle feels especially hard. From everyday challenges to the forces dividing our nation, it’s fair to ask: How can I bring more joy to my life? More peace?
My answer: poetry.
I’m a professional poet. For a decade, I earned a living doing a project I called Poem Store. I set up my typewriter in farmers’ markets and other public places and wrote poems on the spot for anyone who asked. I also did private events. In total, I wrote more than 40,000 poems!
I now teach poetry workshops, lead creative retreats and write books. Everywhere I go, I see a hunger for the unique gift that poetry provides.
Do you remember a story I wrote a few years ago for Guideposts about how poetry can be a vital part of someone’s prayer practice? A couple of years before that, I wrote about how a Poem Store encounter led to an unlikely and life-giving friendship.
What is it about poetry that makes it such a powerful, universal language?
Poetry reveals beauty in the smallest details of creation. It finds light in the darkest shadow. It is a guide and a teacher, reminding readers that life is a miracle, something to be celebrated. Good poetry tells deep truths about joy and pain, triumph and grief. Like the Psalms, poetry explores every aspect of human experience, shying away from nothing and expressing gratitude for everything.
That’s why I believe poetry can be healing for anyone. You don’t have to be a professional poet.
Here are some suggestions for cultivating a poetic mindset, gained from a lifetime of writing, teaching and finding my place on this planet:
1. Be in awe of everything.
A dictionary definition of awe is “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.”
Reverence, fear and wonder are pillars of the poetic mindset. Reverence for the gift of life and the giver. Fear of loss and impermanence. Wonder at the world’s majesty and beauty.
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