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The Transformative Power of Poetry

Installment 1
by Kim Rosen

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Photo by Jennifer Esperanza

Have you ever experienced a lightning bolt of energy when you finally express something that has been locked within you? That is what happens when your entire being is aligned with the truth of the words you speak. The great visionary Hildegard of Bingen once said, “When the inner and the outer are wedded, revelation occurs.” Poetry can be a powerful medicine to wed your inner life with your outer words and actions. When you find a poem you love and speak it aloud, tremendous healing and power can be ignited. It doesn’t matter if you choose a mystical poem by the twelfth century poet, Rumi—This longing / you express is the return message—or a poem of outrage by modern poet and activist Audre Lorde—There are so many roots to the tree of anger / that sometimes the branches shatter. The sheer ring of truth can wake you up to the present moment, fill your voice with the truth of your innermost wisdom, and lead to inspired action in the world.

I spent many years believing I couldn’t relate to poetry—simply because I had not come across poems that spoke the language of my particular life. Then, in the midst of a suicidal depression, I came upon a breed of poetry that, for me, was more powerful than any therapy, religion or medicine I had ever known. These poems became like prayers or mantras to me: I read them over and over, I spoke them aloud, I even learned many of them by heart. They infused not only my heart and mind with inspiration, but they literally affected my biochemistry, changing my brain waves and freeing my consciousness from the cage of its habitual thought patterns.

I invite you to take a poem you love into your heart and your body. Develop a vibrant relationship with it. Become intimate with it and allow it to guide you into intimacy with yourself. Receive the poem’s gifts as it illuminates undiscovered realms within you. And give the poem the gift of a home in your particular humanness. If you do this, that poem can become a teacher that is always with you, touching and changing every moment of your life.

In this column of Feminist.com, I will offer “journeys” into how poetry can inspire your life, and how you can inspire others when you speak it aloud.

The first step is to find a poem you love. I realize that for many of us, this is no easy task. As I said, there were 30 years of my life when I was intimidated by poetry. It seemed like a secret language and I had never been given the code! Even today, I do not relate to much of the poetry I read. However, the select (and ever-growing) group of poems that I love have quite literally saved my life.

How do you find a poem that you love? Perhaps you and I are similar, and the poems I love will also speak to you. In the back of the book Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words there is a list of 50 of my favorite poems. There are also several wonderful anthologies listed in the resource section.

But even if we are different, and your soul needs to give voice to a whole other genre of poetry, you only need to find one poem for the journey to begin. Perhaps you heard a poem that touched you at a wedding or a funeral or a rally. Hunt it down. Google is a fantastic resource: just type in a line from a poem and the author, and you may find what you are looking for instantly. The Poetry Foundation has a wonderful “Poetry Tool” on the front page of their website that will help you find poems on any theme. If you like spiritual poetry, try a luxurious stroll through The Poetry Chaikhana. Another helpful site is www.Poemhunter.com.

Once you’ve found that first poem that speaks to you, it is easy to find others. Check out other poems by the same author. Look through anthologies that include that poem, there may be kindred verses included.

For this first journey, you only need one poem. Or even a few lines from a poem that you love. Take that poem into your life as a companion. Don’t turn the page once you’ve read it. Read it again. Read it out loud to yourself and feel how the phrasing and rhythm of the poem affect the breath and pulsations of your body. Read it like a prayer before you go to sleep and upon waking. Notice how it changes the texture of your nights and mornings. Even write it out and carry it around in your pocket to read again and again – on the bus, in line at the supermarket, stuck in traffic. Notice how those words change the texture of your experience, bringing aliveness and passion to even the most mundane of moments.

In future installments of this “journey,” I will suggest other ways to take that poem into your life and speak it to others that can bring healing, empowerment and inspiration to you and those around you.

Kim Rosen, MFA, author of Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words (Hay House, 2009), has touched listeners around the world with poetry’s power to awaken, inspire and heal. She is the co-creator of four CD’s of spoken poetry and music and has delivered poetry in a wide spectrum of venues from the crypt of Chartres Cathedral to the New Orleans Superdome. Combining her devotion to poetry with her background as a spiritual teacher and therapist, she has given inspirational keynotes, workshops, trainings, retreats and private sessions in corporations, colleges, high schools, nonprofit organizations, retreat centers. For more info on Kim, or the book, visit www.kimrosen.net.





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