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Thank God for Poets

Elaine Kiziah, colleague and consultant at See Change Studio http://workingwellblog.com/, comments occasionally on my blog posts.  Last week she sent a poem in response to my post on emotions as “honored guests.”  That poem blew me away because it summed up in a few phrases what it had taken me paragraphs to write.  In case you haven’t read last week’s comments here is the poem:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Beautiful, isn’t it?  I don’t read poetry that often, but seeing this poem reminded me how a good poem wonderfully captures the essence of our experience.  I started looking for poems that “say it all” and I found a few I’d like to share with you.
New Year Resolve
The time has come
to stop allowing the clutter
to clutter my mind
like dirty snow,
shove it off and find
clear time, clear water.
Time for a change,
let silence in like a cat
who has sat at my door
neither wild nor strange
hoping for food from my store
and shivering on the mat.
Let silence in.
She will rarely mew,
she will sleep on my bed
and all I have ever been
either false or true
will live again in my head.
For it is now or not
as old age silts the stream,
to shove away the clutter,
to untie every knot,
to take time to dream
to come back to still water.
--May Sarton
The executives I work with at the Federal Executive Institute know the truth of May’s words.  They have such demanding jobs that it is difficult to escape the daily clutter of meetings, deadlines and work.  At FEI they discover the value of stepping away, to untie their knots and to dream.  They learn that it is only through this process that they can see the big picture, create an inspiring vision and focus on what’s really important.
Finally I want to share a poem that is personally meaningful, particularly this week.  I am a graduate of Virginia Tech and was listening to the memorial service for the 32 slain students in 2007.  It wasn’t the speeches or public officials, it was poet Nikki Giovanni who electrified everyone who heard her read the following poem.
We Are Virginia Tech
We are Virginia Tech
We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning
We are Virginia Tech
We are strong enough to stand tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend and cry
And sad enough to know we must laugh again
We are Virginia Tech
We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does the child in Africa
Dying of AIDS
Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away
To avoid being kidnapped by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devasted for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water
Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging the bombs
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Because the land was destabilized
No one deserves a tragedy
We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands
We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid
We are better than we think
And not yet what we want to be
We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future
Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness
We are the Hokies
We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail
We are
Virginia Tech

--Nikki Giovanni

This week I’m living with my own loss, thankfully not a tragic one, but a loss nonetheless.  I am not moving on before I’m ready and I embrace my mourning.  Thank you, Nikki, and thanks to all the wonderful poets who have so much to teach us.
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership development.  She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.

One Response to "Thank God for Poets"

  • Elaine Kiziah
    July 12, 2012 - 1:11 am Reply

    I’m touched by your words, Plum. Thanks for the mention and for the other beautiful poems…

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