Can poetry change, or even save, your life?
More and more, I think it can, because poets – good ones at least – are doing something vital for us: finding a way of expressing in words that which is, ordinarily, almost impossible to express.
Good poetry can awaken us to parts of ourselves that we have long left dormant, or suppressed, or have forgotten. Poetry can give us language to welcome back those parts we deny, or of which we are afraid. And poetry can give us language with which to hope again, to have some kind of faith, especially when we lose our footing and see how shifting, transient, unpredictable, and shaky our lives can be.
If you’ve never encountered poetry this way (and many of us had poetry schooled out of us at school), a very good place to start is Roger Housden’s book Ten Poems to Change Your Life. Housden will guide you through poems by Pablo Neruda, Galway Kinnell and, my favourites, Mary Oliver and Derek Walcott. And along the way he’ll give you pointers about how to read, about how the poems can help you see your life and your work through new eyes, and about how you can use poetry to see others more fully and with a wider appreciation of the joys and pain of being human.
Images courtesy of Robert Montgomery