Our reason for mixing poetry into articles about very practical things is done with fierce intention: Poetry enters through our brain’s back door and shakes things up. We find that it helps greatly in envisioning possibilities by working in other less linear languages, helping us make unexpected connections, as well as making us attuned to our surroundings.
It’s why for every morning for the last five years we’ve spent a few minutes on the phone with a dear friend, while he reads us a poem or we read him one, since he first told us that of his unique, simple practice. It starts our brains off with a way wider view than checking our cell-phones offers. Like this astonishing poem about poetry by Rilke:
Breathing: you invisible poem! Complete
interchange of our own
essence with world-space. You counterweight
in which I rhythmically happen.
Single wave-motion whose
gradual sea I am:
you, most inclusive of all our possible seas-
space has grown warm.
How many regions in space have already been
inside me. There are winds that seem like
my wandering son.
Do you recognize me, air, full of places I once absorbed?
You who were the smooth bark,
roundness, and leaf of my words.
We’re so taken with poetry, that we use it for gentle guerrilla actions (which it is, unto itself). Here are some favorites:
Poem in your Pocket: Select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with family, friends, coworkers, random people you pass. If you have time or energy, you can print out copies to give to people you meet or leave on park benches, bank or post office desks, bus seats…
Chalk a poem on a wall or sidewalk:
The little girls
Running in the park at dusk
Are almost women now—
What you’ve missed…
What could be better than finding Kerouac scrawled on the sidewalk?
Of course, you can just take a photo of some poetic writing with your phone and text it to friends, as we did with this bit from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino:
Or send a link to a dazzling poem, as a friend did to us last week, introducing us to Wisława Szymborska, a poet we didn’t know, with A Speech at the Lost and Found (in response to our article about loss).
I lost a few goddesses while moving south to north,
and also some gods while moving east to west.
I let several stars go out for good, they can’t be traced.
An island or two sank on me, they’re lost at sea.
I’m not even sure exactly where I left my claws,
who’s got my fur coat, who’s living in my shell.
My siblings died the day I left for dry land
and only one small bone recalls that anniversary in me.
I’ve shed my skin, squandered vertebrae and legs,
taken leave of my senses time and again.
I’ve long since closed my third eye to all that,
washed my fins of it and shrugged my branches.
Gone, lost, scattered to the four winds. It still surprises me
how little now remains, one first person sing, temporarily
declined in human form, just now making such a fuss
about a blue umbrella left yesterday on a bus.
We’ve never forgotten the pages of anonymous, hand-forged poetry we found pasted to a construction site partition…
It was very mysterious….
Clearly someone had gone to a lot of thought and work to make something so ephemeral; it was vulnerable to the weather and vandals and would be torn down with the wall…
…but it changed our feeling about that day, and has stayed with us as a vivid memory…
We tend to find our poems by opening books at random. But if you’re reading digitally, here are a 100 trails you can follow...