Four Favorite Poetry Books

...and one poem.

Yesterday was a day of poetry.

I've been sharing a poem at the beginning and/or end of class on Sunday mornings again recently. Poetry used to be as important to me in class development as the asana, but as happens with the cyclical nature of things, that practice had fallen away for a few years.

It's so lovely to see how people respond to a poem...
The "mmm" murmured after a poem is read.
Coming up after class to ask for the name of the poem.
Wanting to share their favorite poet or poem or line.

It's like we're all a little bit in the closet about poetry, but once we know we're in safe company of fellow lovers, we can pull the tattered paper out of our wallets and compare notes (I carry a few hand-written lines of Rumi, gifted long ago by a friend).

Poetry is delicious medicine that has helped me make sense of life since high school. I have many old poetry collections published by Hallmark that were my grandmother's, one of which is in the Favorite Four below.

 

The second poetry moment yesterday arose out of the online philosophy class I'm teaching. We are exploring Yoga Sutra 2.1 and yesterday the discussion was around Svadhyaya, the practice of Self Study.

There are a couple of notable aspects of Svadhyaya:

  • Foremost, it is the regular practice of self-reflection and personal growth.
  • Drilling down even deeper, we get to the heart by studying ourselves in the context of sacred texts and teachings.
  • Since we are limited in the objectivity we can have with ourselves, it generally is done with a teacher, which could be a study group, a therapist, a mentor or other trusted guide.
  • For the purpose of knowing ourselves more deeply.

Homework ideas for the month included journalling, reading or memorizing poetry, reading other spiritual texts, group discussion, therapy or mentorship. 

All for the purpose of knowing yourself more deeply.

Several people in the group were interested in exploring poetry as a practice. Since it can be hard to know where to start, I offered to share a few of my favorite poetry books.

Here are four favs, with a kitty photo bomb.

poetry books

Poet Healer edited by Chip Spann
Sadly, this book is out of print, but there are a few on Amazon. It was compiled as part of a project through Sutter's Cancer Program. It is my favorite collection of poems and would be my desert island book of poetry.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver
Oliver's poems are nature and simplicity and awe. All of her books are wonderful, I just have a special affection for this one.

Poems of Awakening edited by Betsy Small
Another great compilation of spiritual poetry. From Kabir and Hafiz to Anna Swir and May Sarton, almost every page in my book is dog-eared.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
I've lived on this book like food for periods of my life. This is my grandmother's copy and it lives on my nightstand. Out of use, it falls open to the writings On Love and On Pain, which sound strangely similar. "And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast." (That's On Love!)

 

The other request I received was for the poem from class -- Below Our Strangeness by Mark Nepo. As you know, Mark is a favorite poet and writer of mine. What a lovely poem for our times.

Below Our Strangeness

I've come to believe that we were
all broken from the same nameless
heart, and everything wakes
with a piece of that original heart
aching its way into blossom. This
is why we know each other below
our strangeness, why when we fall, 
we lift each other; or when in pain, 
we hold each other; why sudden
with joy, we dance together. Life
is the many pieces of that great
heart loving itself back together.

~Mark Nepo

 

poetry month

Are you interested in receiving a poem a day?

April is poetry month, and as part of my spiritual practice, I am going to read, sit with and share a poem a day.

Get on the list to be a part of it. <--Click!

Starts April 1st.

Magic (the cat) will be there!