Poetry

When I moved from home to go to college, my mom gave me a “special book” of handwritten quotes and poems she thought I’d like. The inscription included the instruction: Add your own as you find them. She even included a piece of lined paper to place behind the delicate, transparent pages of the journal so that I would write straight.

I can’t remember when I started reading poetry. Or when I knew that it was a special language of the soul.

I do remember times in my life when a poem saved me. When writing a poem was the only way I knew to express the darkest of hurts, or when another’s seemed to say what I couldn’t.

Today, I have more poetry books than any other kind (even yoga!). I read poetry almost every day.

It inspires my yoga and is probably the most important part of my teaching. I will plan a whole class around a poem, or sometimes a poem brings a class plan together and gives it substance.

Students often ask me for the poems, where I get them, how I choose them. Honestly, now they find me. People will bring them to me, from loose photocopies to hardback books.

In honor of poetry month, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite poets and poems here. I hope you enjoy.

*****

Books

The Poet Healer – Poems compiled by Chip Spann

This book was created as a companion for the journey through illness. Spann weaves his autobiographical story throughout, which serves as an introduction to the sections of poems as well as a trigger to deeper and surprising meaning. This book was a gift from Nina, and I wish I could share every single poem in it. If you have only one poetry book, make it this one.

I read from it here as my contribution to Maria Shriver’s invitation to celebrate Poetry Month.

And here is just one… from Jane Kenyon:

Finding a Long Gray Hair

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

*****

Mary Oliver

Anything by her. Every single one is magic. She is in her 80s now, still writing. She rarely does interviews/appearances, does not seem to have a website (find her poems online with a search). Nature, simplicity, paying attention, and a genuine awe for life imbue her work.

Even if you get the Poet Healer, you have to get a Mary Oliver book, too. Sorry.

*****

David Whyte

His voice. *Swoon.*  His poetry is soulful and rich. It takes you somewhere you don’t understand. A student loaned me some cassette tapes of his and a whole new world opened up. He lectures and writes books, poetry and other.

Many of his poems are on the pages of his website. Go to every page and copy/paste. He travels for speaking engagements. If he’s near you’re town, GO.

*****

Ellen Bass

I don’t know her work well or broadly, but a few of my all-time favs come from her. Gate C2. And Don’t Expect Applause.

*****

Billy Collins

Please. For goodness sake, click here. Nothing like listening to the poet read himself, accompanied by strange and beautiful animation. Plus Billy Collins is wickedly funny. See Forgetfulness, Today, Some Days, and be sure to read Flames.

*****

Of course, Hafiz and Rumi. Of course, Rilke and Robert Bly. And so many others. So many unnamed. The poet in each of us.

*****

When you hear of someone or know the title of a poem, Google it. There are tons of good poem repositories out there… too many to list here. I post many of the poems from class on the studio blog.

I heard it recommended once to memorize your favorite poem. I’m still trying to choose.

What is your favorite? What poets do you love? Are you a secret closet poet??

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11 Responses to “Poetry”


  1. 1 Tami April 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    thank you! thank you! thank you!

    you totally introduced me to poetry through reading in class. i’ve never taken a class or really read any until recently. so yoga and poetry are all wrapped up in a yummy package for me.

    since it’s national poetry month i’m having my english language learner students memorizing and reciting poetry in class. it is a fun way to get them to improve reading fluency and speaking in english.

    so far they’ve done smart by shel silverstein and tony and the quarter by jack prelutsky. so cute!

  2. 2 Leili April 20, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Thank you for sharing these.

  3. 3 blogasana April 20, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Yay! So glad it’s useful for you guys! There’s so much, it’s nice to have a place to start. @Tami – Shel Silverstein rocks! Hooray for the kiddos!

  4. 4 Kelly Parkinson April 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    1. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been meaning to read more poetry, but never know which ones to buy, and there’s nothing worse than stepping into a pile of bad poems. I trust your judgment completely!

    2. If reading poetry every day can make me write like you, then I’m scheduling it right in there with brushing my teeth.

    • 5 blogasana April 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm

      Kelly with the red-caped Aaaaawg!! Yes, watch for piles of bad poems. They stink (ha ha). You are too sweet, and I think of your posts whilst brushing my teeth, so maybe that somehow makes us even steven.

  5. 6 elizabeth April 21, 2010 at 4:24 am

    I never used to like poetry, with the exception of a few things like Shakespeare (who to me reads like poetry, even though I doubt it’s considered such), The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Shel Silverstein, and Beowulf (also possibly not poetry?). But then I discovered Rumi and Hafiz, who I adore more than words can possibly say. And I was introduced to David Whyte at a retreat – hearing his poems read aloud is amazing. And there are so many people whose words read like poetry – or are poetry – on their blogs. So yes, I do love it.

    • 7 blogasana April 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Elizabeth! I love the poem you memorized! Beautiful… and out of the long-forgotten grooves of your brain, I imagine! Hooray!

      I think all of the people you list are poets. (I read Shel Silverstein in class sometimes! Sooo good!!). Yes, nothing like hearing a poem read aloud. People comment to me often on that… saying that it reminds them of being little when their mums would read to them. Very sweet.

  6. 8 elizabeth April 21, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Oh, wait! I am reminded that I did have one memorized back in college days. It was my favorite for a while. Let’s see ..

    “Fate used me meanly, but I looked at her and laughed.
    That none might know how bitter was the cup I quaffed.
    Joy came along and paused beside me where I sat.
    Saying, “I came to see what you were laughing at.”

  7. 9 elizabeth April 23, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I was reading Mary Oliver this morning – in search for a quote for tomorrow’s photo. I LOVE her poems! Thank you so much for the recommendation. :)


  1. 1 It’s All Yoga, People… An Interview With Michelle Marlahan – Yoga Basics « Teacher Goes Back to School Trackback on August 30, 2010 at 1:21 am

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