Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: How Poetry Saved My Life

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Poetry Saved My Life

I came of age in the Reagan era. Greed was 'in'. Arts and Music were abandoned for the baser themes of money and power and I, of course, never fit in. I stood and stared agape at the yellow ties and blue blazers of young republicans who espoused 'christian' values and then went about scourging the 'welfare' state and all things progressive or open-minded. It was a dark time.

Today things are different--or soon will be. But still I find my heart is drawn backward, to these dark days, these questions of hope and doubt still warring. In part, it is because of my own impotency in the face of these questions. Though a progressive in spirit, I am a homebody by nature; so my desire for a new world, a more just world, is met not with action but with paralysis. And I loathe myself for my inaction; but find myself, nevertheless, powerless in the face of it. Old habits die hard and a life of passivity is not overcome by a singular figure of hope and transcendence; but instead by one day a time, making the effort to do something differently.

Until then, until the will to act overcomes my lethargy and fear, I have poetry. I have that one line that can lift my spirits and take me out of myself and my own 'tiny' world into the greater world beyond the limits of my own skin, my own imagination, my own despair. That greater world can be the observation of a spider or the musings of a master on death. Either way, that single line, that turn of phrase, that world revealed can transform me like nothing else. It can bring me flight when I feel that my spirit will never fly again. It can provide clarity when it seems nothing will ever make sense again. It can deliver hope --and open the door to love-- when it seems like my heart will never recover. In the face of profound sadness, it can make me smile again.

Today there is a sadness in me that feels impenetrable; but I know that a morning spent with Billy Collins or Mary Oliver will somehow provide me with just enough thread to spin a cocoon around me, giving me the space to heal, to curl up with not just my pain but also a truth that's beyond me and my own particular wound, so that with time I will emerge again, a butterfly, delighting in the world, spreading my wings, and floating on the warmth of a spring wind.

It has saved my life before
may it save it again
and may we all
through darkness and shadow
and lightness and delight
remain at the feet of the one
who delivers us through it all
and may that one be
celebrated and praised
through the word
the line that weaves its way
into the heart of darkness
and merges with it
a thread of hope


At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sat Shri Akal


Although i keep quiet i still follow your blog daily. i thank you for being so honest and real.
Like it is for you, poetry is one of my lifelines. It is my second lifeline, reading Guru Granth Sahib is still my first. You will understand for sure (there are not much people i can tell this to).
Almost daily i get a sacred poem send by Yvan Granger, it is such a pleasure to read this. It gives me such a universal feeling of being one with so many, who are (or want to be) close to God and express this by poetry.

Try it, it helps you through "your fall".
Stay in Chardi Kala, Someone is taking care of you.
manpreet kaur

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa said...

Sat Nam Manpreet Kaur, my friend,

It makes me happy that you still read my blog...I often wonder if there are still people who drop in on it.

Thanks soooo much for the poetry link. Beautiful. What a great service.

you, too, beloved sister. Stay in Cherdi Kala.

Wahe guru ji ka khalsa wahe guru ji ki fateh.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Betsy de Fries said...

Take a look at this animation of, TODAY, a poem by Billy Collins that my partner and I animated.

Many people have written to me about the spiritual quality of the piece and on reading your blog I think perhaps it fairly captures your mood. ... Be well.

You can see it via our blog or via our site - or

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa said...

Wow! Ms. DeFries that's amazing...thank you so much for sharing! I'd love for you to animate one of my songs! (smile)


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