Poems as Medicine







The world exists, and as I often tell my clients, we have to awkwardly learn how to navigate our long legs along sidewalks, people, places and things. It is difficult at times, and with certainty we trip on cracks and skip over them too. Life is both terrifying and magnificent.

Poetry is a creative avenue that captures the juxtaposition of life’s awkwardness in a condensed form. They can be a very powerful way to connect to the experience of life either by writing them or reading them.  They are medicine.

Here are a few of my favorite poems:

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Who’s turned us round like this, so that we always, do what we may, retain the attitude of someone who’s departing? Just as he, on the last hill, that shows him all his valley for the last time, will turn and stop and linger, we live our lives, for ever taking leave.

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Primitive by Sharon Olds

I have heard about the civilized, the marriages run on talk, elegant and honest, rational. But you and I are savages. You come in with a bag, hold it out to me in silence. I know Moo Shu Pork when I smell it and understand the message: I have pleased you greatly last night. We sit quietly, side by side, to eat, the long pancakes dangling and spilling, fragrant sauce dripping out, and glance at each other askance, wordless, the corners of our eyes clear as spear points laid along the sill to show a friend sits with a friend here.

By Allen Ginsberg
The kindly search for growth, the gracious desire to exist of the flowers, my near ecstasy at existing among them.  
The privilege to witness my existence-you too 
must seek the sun…
My books piled up before me for my use waiting in space where I placed them, they haven’t disappeared, time’s left its remnants and qualities for me to use–my words piled up, my texts, my manuscripts, my loves.
I had a moment of clarity, saw the feeling in the heart of things, walked out to the garden crying. 
Saw the red blossoms in the night light, sun’s gone, they had all grown, in a moment, and were waiting stopped in time for the day sun to come and give 
Flowers which as in a dream at sunset I watered faithfully not knowing how much I loved them.
 I am so lonely in my glory–except they too out there–I looked up–those red bush blossoms beckoning and peering in the window waiting in the blind love,
their leaves too have hope and are upturned top flat
to the sky to receive–all creation open to receive–the 
flat earth itself.
Mirror by Silvia Plath
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful—
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Related Posts