"Poetry at its best calls forth our deep Being, bids us live by its promptings; it dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like wild geese, from an open sky." -- Roger Housden
Change is in the air. The election campaign called for "change we can believe in." The new season brings a change in the weather. And a change of year will soon be upon us.
About 20 years ago, I changed my attitude about the value of reading poetry. I began reading poems aloud to myself, to my life partner, and to groups. I began writing haiku poems and teaching men in weekend gatherings to write their own haiku (and read them aloud, sometimes reluctantly!).
Seven years ago I read Roger Housden's ten poems to change your life. Housden chose ten poems that he believes have the "power to change a reader's view of the world, and thereby, their life." With the works of ten inspiring poets -- Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Rumi and others -- and his own personal commentary, the author explores universal themes for living an authentic life.
A year later, ten poems to open you heart came into being. It is devoted to love: to personal love, to love for others, and love for this world and the next. Housden shares his own experiences of love along with the voices of Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, Sharon Olds and seven other poets. This collection includes one of my favorite poems by Robert Bly -- "The Third Body" -- about a man and woman who do not long for anything other than what they already have:
They are content to be where they are, talking or
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do
The depth of their love brings them to a place of spiritual unity:
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have promised to love that body.
Bly's poem ends in the mystery and paradox of the being we know of but have never seen.
In 2003, ten poems to set you free was published. The poems in this book offer inspiration for claiming one's true life, urging us to stand up for the heart of the life that is ours alone -- once and for all, before it's too late. "It is the truth that sets you free, and these poems are its messengers," says Housden. Among the ten poets featured in this book are Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte, Stanley Kunitz, and Jane Hirshfield.
The last of Housden's poetry series appeared four years ago -- ten poems to last a lifetime -- including poems by Billy Collins, Dorianne Laux, and Rainer Maria Rilke and others. While the poems in this collection do not have a particular theme, they represent the enduring qualities of great poetry -- poetry "that allows joy and delight to bubble up from the soul and tears flow from somewhere deep down inside. Ultimately, whatever engages you for a lifetime is an expression of love."
I can vouch for the truth of Roger Housden's claim that "Good poetry has the power to start a fire in your life." It did for me. I encourage you to live dangerously in the New Year. Begin reading poetry. Start a fire in your life. Make a change you can believe in.