Poetry can meet our needs

Here we are in the sixth month of a world-wide Pandemic.  It’s anyone’s guess when we will return to normal despite hopeful predictions.  In the meantime, poetry, one source of “medicine for the soul,” may be soothing as it offers you a chuckle or a calming release.

This year and all next year, The Poetry Society of South Carolina – the first organization of its kind in our country – is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in Charleston. Today, 22 local affiliated groups sponsor a variety of workshops, competitions, readings and more to support the enjoyment of poetry.

The winner of the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s recent state-wide competition, poet Cameron Mitchum, lives and works in Charleston, SC.  She describes writing poetry and fiction as her necessary contemplative counterbalance to a very demanding “day-job” as the Medical University of South Carolina’s Nursing Professional Development Facilitator. 

Sidewalks blister
By Cameron Mitchum

Sidewalks blister
At noon
In August
In Charleston.
The asphalt shimmies
And you can’t take a breath
Or your lungs would sear
Right out of your chest.
Fanning thick air doesn’t help you remember
That nights cool down.
The sky flips
From blue to pink to purple black.
You lie on the porch with your brothers.
The fan’s tink tink tink lulls you to almost sleep.
Mosquitoes buzz and frogs croak.
You float in and out.
And this too
Is August
In Charleston. 

Many agree they need poetry to provide a different slant in their thinking and feeling as well as a new way to understand our world during this current covid19 pandemic.   

Poet Wendell Berry composed “The Peace of Wild Things” in the 1950’s and first published it in an early poetry collection, Openings: Poems (1968). Berry recited this poem and shared more when he appeared as a guest on Bill Moyers program. ( https://billmoyers.com/story/peace-wild-things/)

Rereading this poem, along with taking a few deep breaths, always brings me back to a calm and peaceful place.  

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world 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 with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

From: The Collected Poems 1957-1982

Discovering, reading and rereading poetry that deeply resonates may calm and ground you also.  The cadence, the language, the emotions can be palpable.   

Whether we laugh out loud while reading or drop into a meditative mood, poetry has the power to heal and strengthen us.  Find some poems you may return to whenever you need a boost or a metaphoric shoulder to lean on.  Poetry heals as it entertains and enlightens. Poetry is all around us if we just look and listen.  

Susan Hendricks leads personal writing groups and workshops approved for CEU credits by the SC Social Work Examiners Board and is an instructor for the Therapeutic Writing Institute online. Read all of her Columbia Star columns at: www.susanhendricks.com/columbia-star-news.

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