Four Short Poems that will Change Your Life

Written by on June 11th, 2015 // Filed under Erika Viktor, Uncategorized

Magestic Colorful Lion
I am the poetry lion. Rawer with me!

 

What happened to a little thing called poetry?

Once upon a time, poetry was at the height of fashion. Men and women of class used it to impress each other with wit, to create mnemonic phrases from which to live by and others read volumes and volumes of the stuff to help describe the ineffable beauty of nature and love.

But we don’t have much use for poetry anymore. Not unless it’s put to song or nestled comfortably in the pages of a picture book. But grownups reading poetry? Outside the literary world? Um, puh-leeze.

The other day I was reading a book of poetry and one in particular made me chuckle. My guy (a sports type who never really fell into the Prufrock romanticism trap) leaned over me and said “I just don’t get why you like that. It doesn’t even make sense!”

He was speaking of the work of e.e. cummings (intentionally not capitalized)—a scrappy poet who seemed to write backwards, mix up words, invent punctuation and, at times, defy the English language.

My answer was: “Sometimes the pairing of words that are dissimilar creates a tickle of pleasure or laughter. Sort of like the pairing of a sportsy dude and a literary girl—get it?”

He shrugged, then his eyes widened when he realized I was about to read an example to him. He will never get those moments back. When I was done reading, he shrugged. “It’s just not my thing.”

This is not new to me. My first several publications happened to be poetry, and my excitement was completely flattened by the looks of my friends and family after I told them. “You mean poems, like Dr. Seuss?”

Very few people I know—outside of literary hopefuls—enjoy poetry. That’s okay with me. I’m kinda like the nerdy girl who discovered a rare Manga comic during my trip to Japan that none of my other nerdy friends know about. The exclusivity of it makes me happy.

I still write poetry, but there are a few classics I’d like to share with you now.

I selected these classics because I found them to either be true, inspiring or just plain helpful!

 

POEM #1 – SOLITUDE

 

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

 

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

 

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

- Ella Wheeler

 

“Really, Erika? Start things off depressing, whydon’tyou!”

I love this poem not because it predicts how people magically vacate when you’re having a bad hair day. I like it because it literally (and literarily) teaches you how to win friends and influence people, without reading that stuffy old book!

Candy!

Prizes!

Smiles!

Happiness!

Folks are more attracted by happiness than woe. As soon as you are in trouble, people turn into cartoonish clouds of dust (aka, Roadrunner movies). People want to share in your happiness, but sadness? They got enough of that!

Okay, I recognize that this isn’t entirely true. People do enjoy drama. Some hunt it for sport. But, a prolonged dialog on how your bunions are stalling your tap dancing career? Nope. They give you maaaybe three minutes, then its splitsville.

I struggled with a huge slug of depression a few years ago. I had never encountered it before: that soul-stealing lack of feeling and enthusiasm for anything. Most artists and entrepreneurs will struggle with this insidious monster at some point in their life, but I was wholly unprepared for the engorged, persistent black cloud that hung over me.

I sought out the help of friends. I had long coffee sessions with various nodders and encouragers. But what could they do? I found that they listened for maybe ten minutes then it was on to more practical matters, like when the newest episode of Breaking Bad was going to air and just how much chai is in a chai mocha latte.

Ultimately, I had to find a way out on my own. And I did. A strong message being passed by the poet therefore is: be ready to face your worst moments alone, because at the end of the day, your life and most pressing burdens are solely yours.

 

POEM #2 – Speech to the Young, Speech to the Progress Toward

 

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

- Gwendolyn Brooks

I actually came across this poem thanks to Oprah. I was worshipping at her alter one morning and she dropped this poem out of the air like so many free Fords. Thanks be to thee, Grand O! For thine wisdom in finding cool stuff is supreme!

Okay, let’s face it, people are always trying to kill your buzz. Loved ones, hated ones, grocery store clerks and kids on the playground. As soon as you declare “Hey everyone! I want to be special!” they immediately become “down keepers” and “sun slappers.”

This is perhaps my least favorite trait about mankind and its likely you have encountered it too. Haters hating and so forth. But the poem has another, more pure meaning near the end. It admonishes strength to hush your enemies, then tempers you with an admonishment that the “magical someday” you seek, isn’t coming. You have to live for right now in the along.

To those who are experiencing trouble, this is a perfect message of encouragement; that all that will come to pass. Today you are sad, but tomorrow you will be happy. Basically, life is a journey. And all must be prepared to cruise on with it.

 

POEM #3 – Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas

 

Despite the apparent reference to old age in this poem, there is a strong message that applies to all ages. “Do not go gentle into that night” is a call to never give up.

Thomas is urging us to always keep working toward achieving whatever our life’s goal is despite the encounters that may unfold. We must keep raging, keep on fighting, for as long as we can.

Also, this poem helped Will Smith and Bill Pullman kick alien butt in the best worst movie of all time: Independence Day.

 

POEM #4 – Ulysses (Part)

 

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to survive.

To seek, to find, but not to yield.

- Tennyson

 

This poem is similar to poem #3 for a reason. I really think this concept is important.

As a young adult, I used to wonder what was happening to the older adults I saw at work every day. Ladies and gents in their 40-50’s who seemed to be automatons without vigor, zest and personality. What can I say, it was the corporate world.

A few years later, I began to understand. With age and the blows that seem to come as a consequence there exists a strong desire to lay low, to not make waves. In other words, to cease to rage.

But why? Some say that as we age we have more assets to protect: homes, children, our ever more fragile egos, our health. It doesn’t make sense to do anything out of the common way because that is risky and likely won’t pay off and if we just keep our head down then all will work out for us in the end. Besides, I’m comfortable in this cubicle.

The settling mindset knocks on all our doors. He’s friendly, he makes you feel comfortable, he doesn’t put his feet up on your trendy Z Gallerie tufted ottoman. And so you make friends with him. After awhile, his pamphlets, his sincerity, his kind eyes make you start to think he’s preaching the truth.

Mormon Missionary references aside, the urge to “settle” makes lovers of us all and we willingly oblige because it requires very little effort. We have been made weak by time and fate. We have suffered reality checks, disappointments and so many setbacks that we are glad no one is keeping track because that would be a hugely embarrassing scrapbook.

Settling is the ceasing of seeking, of finding. In youth we are always roving, searching. But with age we believe we have known it all, have seen it all.

Confession: I have this poem framed in all its grandeur glory. It’s one of my favorite “upmessage” poems.

Keep seeking, keep finding. Don’t yield until the grave makes you. Even then, I’m sure there’s room for negotiation.

If you have a favorite poem that has helped you, please share!

4 Responses to “Four Short Poems that will Change Your Life”

  1. Good post!! True that on the depression piece :)

    Posted by VinceReply
  2. If I had to choose only one poem to read, would choose “IF”. It’s the ultimate advice and encouragement needed to keep going in times of failure AND in times of victory. For victory has its own poison of taking things for granted just as failure feeds us with the venom of defeat. And yeah. the last line could use a tweak or two for gender equality

    If—
    BY RUDYARD KIPLING

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

    Posted by RejoyReply
    • This is indeed a GREAT poem! Thanks so much for sharing!

      Posted by Erika ViktorReply

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