wellness

poetry church

This summer, more than any other, has been the summer of trying new things. No, I’m not eating escargot or para-sailing, but I am saying yes to more things than I probably used to, and I’m giving myself permission to enjoy things I would have convinced myself not to before.

Last week I wrote about spending the day at All-Grrrls Summer Camp, which was so much fun, and definitely pushed my social boundaries a little. This weekend, a few co-workers and dear friends put together a low-key even we lovingly call poetry church. A handful of us at work realized that we a love for poetry in common, and we were excited to share favorite stanzas and poets with each other.

We gathered on a big enclosed porch with couches, wicker chairs, and a big rug; candles, glasses of wine and blueberry tea, and books of poetry covering every surface and lap. Hafiz, Cohen, Neruda, and Oliver all shared the space, as well as a group of both friends and strangers. As one of my friends put it, we were all gathered as parishioners of poetry.

For those of you who don’t know, poetry has served an important part in my life, and especially in my writing, for as long as I can remember. Poetry is what comes most naturally to me. I used to write poems rather constantly, but I began taking anti-depressants in 2010, which stunted my writing significantly. Now I write a gem here or there. When the words hit me, I have to write them down. I imagine the feeling I get when a poem flows through me to be the way certain religions describe experiencing tongues.

My anxiety has been pretty heavy the last couple of weeks, so I turned to poetry to help make sense of what I’m feeling without having to articulate the reason I feel the way I do. Depression and anxiety are funny that way. I tried to picture the most relaxing place I could remember, and out came the poetry.

Sitting in the quietness of poetry church, one by one each parishioner read something that struck them in the moment, something they’ve loved for a long time, or something that flowed with the poems read before and after. A fountain bubbled out in the yard behind us, and two big pups curled up at our feet.

I brought a few books to read from: What the Living Do by Marie Howe, Over the Anvil We Stretch by Anis Mojgani, What Narcissism Means to Me  by Tony Hoagland, and a collection of selected works from students in the writing program of my university called Open Ear to the Universe. I started with the title poem from Marie Howe’s book, a longtime favorite of mine. My heart was racing as the silence seemed to rise up around me until my ears were ringing. “What the living do,” I read. It’s nice to read something aloud without stumbling over any words, isn’t it?

A few poems later, after turning the pages of Mojgani and Hoagland’s books for something that struck me in the moment, I decided I’d take a pass through Open Ear to the Universe to see which poems of mine were published. I landed on a poem called “Tuesdays” I hadn’t thought about in a while. It’s one of my favorites that I’ve written, and I decided it couldn’t hurt to sneak in one of my own just to see what happened. “Grandma and the HD television watch each other in silence,” the poem ends. Poetry-readers tend not to snap as much as you see in movies, but they do exhale and hum emotively to words that resonate. It felt good to have a response, especially since no one knew the poem was my own.

It would be misleading to say that I’m “getting back into writing” these days, because I’ve written for this blog consistently for such a long time. However, I am getting back into telling stories, marveling over words, and letting myself feel in the written form. It feels good. I feel like my old self again, but with all of my new self there too. It’s an exciting time to be a writer and writing is exciting.

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