The healing power of poetry
This year – 2020 – will be remembered in many ways by the pandemic affecting untold millions around the world as it continues to expand. This pandemic has taken over every aspect of our lives requiring seclusion, if not total isolation, as we seek to remain healthy and safe.
Poetry can be a healing balm to sooth nerves and offer encouragement at times like these, an important and immediate voice thanks to the Internet’s instant access today.
A few weeks ago, a powerful poem appeared on the Internet written by Lynn Ungar, a 56-year-old Unitarian minister who is also Jewish. She enjoys writing poetry for pleasure but was surprised when her poem went viral across the Internet.
Unger wrote Pandemic in a few hours and posted it on Facebook to a group of her friends where it began to generate hundreds of comments including “Best thing I’ve read all day,” “I needed this,” and “Healing.”
A Chicago Tribune reporter, Mary Schmich, noticed the activity on Facebook and reached out to the poet. Schmich explained that “Ungar had been reflecting on a question: How do we physically distance ourselves without emotional distancing?”
(Excerpts from poem)
By Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
As the Jews consider the Sabbath –
The most sacred of times?
Cease from travel
Cease from buying and selling …
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
To whom you commit your life…
Reach out your heart…
Know that our lives
Are in one another’s hands.
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart….
Promise the world your love …
In sickness and in health,
So long as we all shall live.
A second woman’s poem “reads like a cross between a proverb, Instagram poem, and if you’re feeling optimistic, a psychic prediction,” according to an article in Oprah Magazine October 2019.
Kitty O’Meara, a retired Wisconsin teacher and former chaplain, writes a blog and Facebook page. She explains that her poem, “offers a story of how it could be, what we could do with this time.”
Before writing this poem, O’Meara told Oprah Magazine: “I was getting sad. There was nothing I could do,” when her husband suggested she write about it. “I just sat down and wrote it.” Within three days of sharing the poem online, her poem was going viral. Here is an abbreviated version.
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply… And the people began to think differently….
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, …. And created new ways to live and heal the earth, as they had healed themselves.
The article including the entire poem can be read at: https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/a31747557/and-the-people-stayed-home-poem-kitty-omeara-interview/
Guitarist “alessandro” set this poem to music explaining, “When I read the quote by Kitty O’Meara I was moved. I needed to sing the words.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_izFfqzvAU
A third poem, written as well as spoken in different languages is spreading around the world. To find it, search using the entire first line.
We fell asleep in one world, and woke in another …
Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons,
Not visiting becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realize that power, beauty and money are worthless …
The world continues its life and it is beautiful…
I think it’s sending us a message:
“You are not necessary. Without you the air, earth, water and sky are fine.
Remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.”
Why not write a few lines of poetry or prose and share them with others. Even in seclusion, reach out remembering that we’re all connected.
Susan Hendricks is an instructor for the Therapeutic Writing Institute and leads personal writing groups and workshops approved for CEU credits by the SC Social Work Examiners Board. Find her previous Columbia Star Newspaper columns at: www.susanhendricks.com/columbia-star-news.
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