Monday’s Food for Thought: Poetry

I am not what you would refer to as a literary critic.

I read mostly fiction, and occasionally some non-fiction, but after spending the last 5 years hanging around arty English lit types, I have to say my love of the written word has expanded. As I’ve stumbled through difficult pieces of literature, my patient friends have taken the time to answer the thousands of questions I have about writing and content, and have often taught me to think a bit more critically about what I’m reading.

Poetry is one of those things I never fully warmed to. I hated studying it when I was in high school and college. All the different types of poetry form to think about – is this free verse? Classicism? Acrostic? Ballad? Is it unryhmed iambic pentameter? (Should I even care if iambic pentameter is rhymed or unrhymed? I can see my poet friends cringing now). I really didn’t care.

That’s changed quite a bit. It’s hard to live in a university city like Oxford and not be exposed to famous poetry on a regular basis. Our city is haunted by the past lives of famous poets: T S Eliot, W H Auden, John Donne, and Gerald Manly Hopkins, just to name a few. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of their work. It’s also refreshing to have a new perspective on something I used to avoid and immensely dislike.

Recently, I stumbled across this poem, and thought I would share it with you today. Even if poetry isn’t your thing, there is definitely many nuggets of loveliness in this to take away and think about.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927.

Enjoy your Monday. You have a right to be here.

-Mandy

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