4 Poems Everybody Can (and Should) Read

I know National Poetry Month just ended, but I'm a big believer that we all should read poetry often. Many people feel like poetry is unapproachable or not easily understood, but I'd argue just the opposite is true-- poetry is an honest expression of thoughts and feelings, and I think all of us can find ourselves in poetry if we create space to sit with the words and let them speak to us.

That might sound a little funky to you if you've never tried it, but I'd encourage you to find a quiet space, to settle down, and to read these words out loud to yourself. It might feel uncomfortable, but you'll experience so much more of the fullness and beauty of the words when you hear them out loud.

Also -- On Being launched a new site called The Poetry Radio Project where you can listen to poets read their work -- it's amazing and we highly recommend spending some time browsing around there!

Here are a few of my favorites! I'd love to hear yours, too.


"The Journey"

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 voice 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 that you could save.
— Mary Oliver // "The Journey"

"The Peace of Wild Things"

Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry // "The Peace of Wild Things"

"Amor Fati"

Jane Hirshfield

Little soul,
you have wandered
lost a long time.

The woods all dark now,
birded and eyed.

Then a light, a cabin, a fire, a door standing open.

The fairy tales warn you:
Do not go in,
you who would eat will be eaten.

You go in. You quicken.

You want to have feet.
You want to have eyes.
You want to have fears.
— Jane Hirshfield // "Amor Fati"

"My Eyes So Soft"

Hafez

Don’t Surrender
Your loneliness so quickly.

Let it cut more
Deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so
Tender,
My need of God
Absolutely
Clear.
— Hafez // "My Eyes So Soft"

What is your favorite poem? Which poets do you read and love?