Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.
It’s hard to disagree with that, right?
The appeal of poetry has always been universal. Ever since ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’—the very first poem that appeared around 3000 BC in Sumer, Mesopotamia, poetry has had an instantaneous appeal to every age.
Perhaps, it came down to the fact that poetry mirrored the deepest human feelings, thoughts, and emotions—representing the gamut of human experiences under the sun. We’ve all loved poetry because it relays this essential human experience to us in forms that appeal not just to our head but to our hearts and particularly, to our sensibilities. As we continue to read poetry, in the formal and the informal contexts, often, over a period of time, many of us also venture into the art of writing poetry ourselves to share our own personal experiences, as we inevitably get pulled into the roller-coaster rides of life.
During the pandemic, poetry and art were the best things that happened to me. I took to reading poetry, primarily to divert my mind. One particular evening, as I read aloud one of my favourite poems, something magical happened. The joy of hearing a recitation heightened the experience of enjoying the poetry. Over the next few weeks, when I ran out of my little collection of poems, I went digging for new ones, discovering real treasures from amongst the vast resources that the internet threw open to me.
Suddenly, it seems I had chanced upon an exciting journey and now, there was no looking back. In poetry, I had found a friend and an ally to help me make sense of the world around me.
And so, the journey continued. In between busy days and crazy routines, poetry had come to be my refuge and my solace; my shelter and my happy place!
As I continued to read, I realised I had fallen in love with poetry all over again. There have been many favourites. One of them is called ‘The Peace of Wild Things’, written by the well-known American poet, essayist and cultural activist, Wendell Berry.
This is a poem that was written against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. It was a time when people were seriously thinking about the ecological effects of population growth and environmental damage, and the sense of fear, anxiety and confusion is rather unmistakable, as they mirror the fears and anxieties of our times and our own uncertain future in the post-pandemic world.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the poem ends with a message of hope. I shall not elaborate further. I invite you to read this beautiful poem yourself and I sincerely hope the words speak to you just as they did to me. Here goes:
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.
I’d love to know what you thought of the poem. And if you enjoyed it as much as I did, do share your reasons in the comments below.
Written as part of our #SoulfulSunday freewriting exercise—a concept ideated by Vinitha, Shilpa and yours truly.