Tuesday, August 2, 2016

You Are Living in a Poem

On Sunday, I heard a great interview with Naomi Shahib Nye on the radio show On Being.  She says that she writes "You Are Living in a Poem" on the board of any room she's in:

"I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, 'You are living in a poem.' And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. 'What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?' And I’d say, 'No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.' And they liked that."

I love her approach to life--which includes writing:  "One thing I’ve tried to say to groups over the years, groups of all ages, is that writing things down, whatever you’re writing down, even if you’re writing something sad or hard, usually you feel better after you do it. Somehow, you’re given a sense of, 'OK, this mood, this sorrow I’m feeling, this trouble I’m in, I’ve given it shape. It’s got a shape on the page now. So I can stand back, I can look at it, I can think about it a little differently. What do I do now?' And very rarely do you hear anyone say they write things down and feel worse."

She reminds us that it need not take a lot of time:  "And I think many people are encouraged to think you could write that little and still gain something from it. That you don’t have to be spending an hour and a half to three hours to five hours a day writing to have a meaningful experience with it. It’s a very immediate experience. You can sit down and write three sentences. How long does that take? Three minutes. Five minutes. And be giving yourself a very rare gift of listening to yourself, just finding out when you go back and look at what you wrote. And how many times we think, 'Oh, I would never have remembered that if I hadn’t written it down.'”

Go here to listen to the show or read the transcript.

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