‘There is so much to admire, to weep over and to write music or poems about.’ - Mary Oliver

 Illustration by Peter Sis, from his adaptation of the twelfth-century Persian epic poem,  The Conference of the Birds

Illustration by Peter Sis, from his adaptation of the twelfth-century Persian epic poem, The Conference of the Birds

Poetry fills our days without us even having to open a book to read a poem. While I suggest visiting the poetry section in your local bookstore and taking the time to find a poet that you connect with, I do believe that poetry is everywhere and it is the poets that help us to recognize this.

In every song is a poem, the way the shadows fall on the sidewalks, how the sun sets...the earth gives us as much poetry as humans do. Poems guide us, comfort us, enrage us, call us to action, make us sit in silence.

In honor of my latest release of poems, Then Suddenly SunI am focusing this week on poets and poems that have been with me for years. Their words and their voices have comforted me in times of sadness and have inspired and given me strength when I’ve needed it the most. 

A good book of poems is the ultimate travel partner.

A few years ago I was driving through Texas and made a stop at Canarium Books in Marfa. This beautiful book shop is owned by Joshua Edwards. During this stop, I met Joshua and purchased (at the time) his latest book, Architecture For Travelers

In the yellow room

there’s a mirror for watching

the sunrise from bed

Architecture for Travelers is both a book of poems and a travelogue of his 1000 kilometer walk across Texas. It is a book that I’ve read over and over again and will continue to consult for inspiration, guidance and escape.

Architecture for Travelers

Travelers need a house

not only comfortable

for daily life and good

to come back to, but also

easy to live without:

a place that is a kind of

conspiracy theory of walls,

that doesn’t quite exist

when nobody is home.

-

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Her beautiful poems are filled with characters and stories of the Palestine that was, is and hopes to be. Nye is based in San Antonio, Texas. Her poems are stories that take the reader beyond the page. One can hear the cries of her characters, taste the olives, smell the tea leaves brewing, and hope, along with her and the people she writes about, that peace can be planted and flourish between the Palestinians and Israelis.

No one was right,

Everyone was wrong

What if they’d get together

and say that?

From the book 19 Varieties of Gazelle comes this moving poem set in Nablus, Palestine.

an excerpt from: Lunch in Nablus City Park

What makes a man with a gun seem bigger

than a man with almonds? How can there be war

and the next day eating, a man stacking plates

on the curl of his arm, a table of people 

toasting one another in languages of grace:

For you who came so far;

For you who held out, wearing a black scarf

to signify grief;

For you who believe true love can find you

amidst this atlas of tears linking one town 

to its own memory of mortar,

when it was still a dream to be built

and people moved here, believing,

and someone with sky and birds in his heart

said this would be a good place for a park.

-

Mary Oliver has been a longtime guide and may I even add a dear friend, even though she does not know me. Born in Ohio, but residing the majority of her life in Provincetown, Massachusetts, she writes her love letters to the natural world and at times becomes one with the waters, forests, and animals. It is amazing the comfort that one can find in her poems. By reading her books, I've learned to better understand myself and my place in this world.

From the book, Blue Horses:

The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac

I know you never intended to be in this world,

but you’re in it all the same.

so why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.

There is so much to admire, 

to weep over

and to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.

Bless the eyes and the listening ears.

Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.

Bless touching.

 

From the book, Wild Geese:

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.