The Bracing Effect of Bold Writing

I first read the phrase “the bracing effect of bold writing” in the introduction to Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times.

Poetry can be bold writing.  It should be bold writing.  Its intensity of feeling and compression of language, its wild imaginings, its sounds, rhythms, and musicality can help through hard times.

And, other than a small percentage of the very rich who may be skating along for a while, who doesn’t have hard times, these days?

Poetry can remind us that others have suffered too, name what we are experiencing, and lift us out of a funk or at least show that we are not alone.

This is useful,  necessary and encouraging.

Image:  Ed Yourdon

On Ulcers

“There is no poetry for the practical man.  There is poetry only for the man who spends a certain amount of his time turning the practical wheel, because if he spends too much time at the mechanics of practicality, he’ll become something less of a man or be eaten up the by the frustrations that are stored in his irrational personality.  An ulcer is the unkissed imagination taking its revenge for having been jilted.  It’s an unwritten poem, an undanced dance, an unpainted water color.  It’s a declaration from the mankind of a man that a clear spring of joy has not been tapped and that it must break through muddily on its own.”

–John Ciardi

We are not machines, even if our organizations, corporations, schools, and other institutions often treat us that way in pursuit of efficiency, predictability, and rationality.

We are humans, fallible, vulnerable and with hearts.   Organizations that don’t allow space for the human spirit are deadening.

We need to create workplaces and schools that allow integration of the mind, spirit, heart and soul.  These are the only truly sustainable organizations.

Image:  Ben Brown




Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

–David Wagoner: From Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems by David Wagoner. Copyright © 1999 by David Wagoner.

Poetry offers clarity. It is so easy to become lost in trivia and fear.

At times, sometimes many times a day, my life becomes unbearable. I think myself into a stew of negative thinking.

It helps to read poetry. Poetry, like prayer, helps me regain perspective. It often calms me and shifts my thinking to a place that is more hopeful and creative.

Image: debabrata