There is, in poetry, a power to touch and transform our lives; a power so subtle it is almost magic. Author, spiritual teacher and, yes, poet, Kim Rosen spoke to me about how she uses the art form to help others transform their own lives.
“That’s wonderful,” Kim laughed upon hearing how much I enjoyed her recently released Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words (Hay House, 2009). In fact by page two I was in tears and have been the prowl for poems on a daily basis ever since. “I love hearing how the book has touched people. It is so rewarding.
Armed with a B.A. from the prestigious Yale University and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, Kim has successfully led trainings, workshops and retreats the world over for more than 25 years. Combining her devotion to poetry with her background as a spiritual teacher and therapist, she also gives "Poetry Concerts", often working with other poets, teachers, and musicians like cellist Jami Sieber.
“I became a teacher of consciousness, an explorer of realms of spirituality and psychology – but none of these wisdoms I’d been immersed in could touch the place where I was broken beyond repair. You know: take four teaspoons of Rumi and call me in the morning.”
In Saved by a Poem Kim speaks of accidentally finding a cassette tape of David White speaking poems that brought breath and feeling to a place within her that felt untouchable. At that same time Kim was driving long distances back and forth to her parents who were struggling with their own health crises. She decided to put the driving time to good use and start memorising some of her favourite pieces.
“I found myself not memorising the poems but learning them by heart and each time I said them I discovered something new – about the poem and about myself.”
She began recording poets reading their own work as well as that of other poets and putting it against the deeply soulful cello of Jami Sieber. Writing and recording Saved by a Poem became an integral part of her own journey to help people discover or rediscover the magic that is poetry in their own lives.
“Poetry is one of the main flashlights I use to help people to open up to the possibilities of who they are.”
While the book was with the copy editors, Kim found herself again being saved yet again by a poem. After investing her lifesavings, Kim discovered that like thousands of others, she had lost everything to Bernie Madoff. As she hung up the phone from hearing the news, the opening words of the poem "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye began to play in her mind.
“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things.”
“You know, people think that all the people who lost money in those schemes were millionaires. I wasn’t – it was a small amount – but it was all I had. The poem just seized me - it really arrived from somewhere as if it had been an exam of my own teaching.”
Kim survived the Madoff loss and is not shy in admitting the role poetry played in helping her through that and other difficulties. She believes fervently that poetry is the only language that speaks to those vast shifts, wonders, and heartbreaks that happen and that speaking poems aloud helps navigate those very challenges.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
From: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (A Far Corner Book) (Paperback) by ~ Naomi Shihab Nye
©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.