poetry has the ability to help re-frame how we see the world
I tell my friend she has a beautiful life. That she’s blessed, loved, prosperous and secure. But she doesn’t quite see it that way. Doesn’t quite hear me. Stress seems to cloud her day…
I try to understand. To decipher the frame, the lens she has chosen to contextualize her life. To probe the disconnect.
If I could, I would offer her another way to experience the contours, the meaning and accents within the limits of her life. I would frame it for her to its best advantage. But, to shift a paradigm takes time. Change happens by degree, slowly. Perspective is personal, rooted in routines we hold very dear, almost sacrosanct.
To move away from seeing the glass half-empty, the debt half-paid, the challenges cause for complaint, and towards seeing the ready abundance, the small blessings, the inherent strength requires pause. To hear something fresh, new and invigorating.
It means easing off the gas and putting on the brake. Slowing down. To reflect.
- Poetry can do this.
- Poetry creates pause.
- Poetry demands reflection.
A poem is an invitation to live deeper, to look longer; to reframe a life, one line at a time.
To read a poem, to sit with a few carefully chosen and crafted words and let them—potentially—speak life to your life, is an act of faith in hearing. Faith in a better day.
The beauty of a poem is that it has nothing to prove, no power to explain or justify its role, merit or worth.
- It sees.
- It speaks.
- It believes.
This is a rare combination.
Giving place and time to poetry is an act of increasing intimacy, giving assent to another voice that seeks to know and be known. Even to make you known to yourself, an act of revelation, which can be risky, but also very rewarding.
Poetry can affirm and highlight the unique contours, the peaks and valleys of a life. It can bring meaning to the most ordinary event. It can help you look past the surface, pierce the darkness and see the truth, spot the beauty and release the pain. Poetry can help heal a soul as surely as it can bring forth meaning and reframe a perspective.
It accomplishes this tremendous (largely intangible) task simply by being what it is.
Poetry is a voice without an agenda: another rarity.
A voice that seeks to honour reality, to embrace truth (if not embody it) in the moment, as a thing of beauty inasmuch as it is authentic and free.
- It hears.
- Contends for and receives.
And what it comes to own, it gives away.
This witness of spiritual generosity in the universe often turns our thoughts towards prayer, which Abraham Heschel describes as “a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness.” When our hearts are moved to give thanks or to ponder or even believe in what we see and feel, we begin to pray. Heschel calls it “our attachment to the utmost.” He says, “To pray is to become a ladder on which thoughts mount to God to join the movement toward him which surges unnoticed throughout the entire universe. We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting.”
For this reason I see poetry as a first rung on the ladder towards a deeper spiritual engagement with life and its source, which is prayer.
I think poetry that resonates with your soul and speaks to your situation is a trustworthy way to frame life as something deeply personal and infinitely good. God leads us; he directs our path toward the light—wherever we may be.
Poetry, like prayer, can be a bridge between who and where you are now, and where you would like to be. Poetry is a first step towards peace with God as much as it represents our ideals and deals with our disappointments. It is the pause in the middle of the day; the reflective act that describes our staying true. To read a poem is to embrace (if not embody) a better life. It is to find our way.