The Healing Art: Doctors Prescribing Poems

healingartMy hematologist, who has monitored my leukemia for the past ten years, copied me into an email he sent to his colleagues. It was the poem “Beannacht” by Irish poet John O’Donohue, which begins:

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

What a grace to have a doctor who would send this around to his colleagues. This is what I want in all my doctors: human beings in touch with the full range of human emotions. People who respond to poetry. [Read more...]

Receiving “What Is”

15518572787_47930a88ff_zWith gratitude and apologies to Peter Cole

I would like to share this poem with you.

I would like you to receive it as an honored guest. Receive it as one would receive grace.

To receive the poem, we need to release our unrelenting need to understand. We need to allow partial understanding to flourish. We need to allow the poem to not be undone by understanding. [Read more...]

Remembering Phil Levine

By Paul Mariani

Note: We asked the author, one of Image’s editorial advisors, to write a tribute to his longtime friend, the late poet Philip Levine.

Philip-Levine_1709-682x1024It was at the Breadloaf Writers Conference back in the late 1980s that I first met Phil Levine. The summer before, Bob Pack had asked me for the names of some poets whom he might invite to the conference, and I mentioned how great it would be to invite Phil.

I was deeply drawn to Phil’s poetry for a number of reasons—his working-class background growing up in Detroit, much like my own growing up in Mineola, Long Island, the way he wrote about people in factories or in diners or at bus stops which most poets overlooked or disregarded, though certainly Walt Whitman had sung of them, as had Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson and Muriel Rukeyser and Theodore Roethke. Anyway, that was a big part of the draw.

[Read more...]

The Inner Life of Everyday Objects

HelminenclothespinsOn a morning when I was doing laundry, I was also reading Edward Dougherty’s new collection of poems, Everyday Objects. I would read some poems till the dryer buzzed, then go and fold the dried clothes, then return to reading until the next load was dry.

Because I was moving between these poems and my laundry, as I pulled each item from the dryer I related to it in a way I hadn’t previously. This years-old green washcloth: it has done more than a lifetime’s duty washing my husband’s face.

[Read more...]

My God Is Better Than Yours

512px-The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaWhat a miracle! They had been freed, the Israelites, from Egypt, but moments after they set out on their way “home,” Pharaoh changed his mind, whipped his chariots and troops into a fury of pursuit and were fast closing in on the Israelites trapped by an impassable body of water before them.

And then…and then…and then, safe on the far shore, their enemies drowned when the walls of water collapsed over them. They sang, they beat on frame drums, they danced: a victory song and dance, the song of the sea!

[Read more...]


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