Inspired by “Saved by a Poem”

The First Rose of Summer

A friend recommended the book Saved by a Poem by Kim Rosen and I have been, not simply reading it, but incorporating its many rewarding practices, suggestions, questions, and meditations into my own poetry life.  The book describes the power of taking poems into your life and learning them by heart, “writing them into your bones” and speaking them aloud.  Being able to say poems, rather than reading them from written text, has been something I have known for some time that I needed to do.  But I have dreaded the process of memorizing and have doubted that, even if I did memorize a poem, it would stick in my brain for very long.  Rosen’s book gave me the courage to begin and renewed awareness of the power of spoken, felt, lived poetry.

I drive at least an hour or more every day for my work, and this summer, the highway I need to take regularly is under major reconstruction, so there are often traffic problems.  I decided, instead of feeling trapped by this undesired driveway, I would use the drive to learn poems.  I started with the CD that comes with the book, and then began to gather poems that have been favorites at various stages of my life since high school.  Using my Zoom H2 digital recorder, I recorded about 30 minutes of poetry, 12 “old favorite poems” by Mary Oliver, Rilke, Joy Harjo, others, and 12 of my own poetry.

Now, as I am driving, I am chanting lines from poems, embedding them in my heart.  I am driving more slowly without feeling stressed by the agressive drivers all around me. I am getting places early, because instead of leaving home at the very last  minute possible (or later than that), I look forward to the time with poetry that the drive brings so I leave home earlier and without regret.  Last week, rush hour afternoon traffic was worst than usual, with traffic backed up not just on the highway, but on all the suburban roads leading home.  I actually found myself glad that traffic was moving slowly because it gave me more time to learn the end of a new poem.  I arrived home feeling meditative, relaxed, without need to destress after the commute!

For anyone who loves poetry, I highly recommend this book.

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