OFTEN, WITH MEDITATION, I’m reminded of many people’s reaction to poetry. “I don’t get it,” they say, a little embarrassed to be admitting this to a writer and a former English teacher.
The first thing I think is: You must have had a really lousy teacher who taught you that poetry is something you “get”—a message you extract for a good grade. Poetry-phobes might feel a bit more relaxed when I tell them that’s not how poetry works. Often, with my favorite poems, I never fully get them. All I know is that reading and rereading them, the mystery stirs inside me again. In her lovely poem “Self-Portrait with Religion and Poetry,” Kate Daniels describes what happens to her when she deeply connects with a work of art:
... I lie down in the silence
of my mind and touch the world all over.
Clouds fly through me. Trees break the sky
above a frozen lake, and a footprint
startles its crust of snow.
Then I can type another page, or nurse
my hungry infant. I can take from the cupboard
the bread and the wine, the eggplant and garlic
my hands will transform into sustenance.