Of Poetry and Stress Relief

5 May

So I moved back home about a month and a half ago from Massachusetts, and now we are selling our house, which is just one more crazy life change among many in the past eight or nine months. This house is the house I grew up in, the house I’ve lived in for my entire life with my mom and my grandparents. Since my grandparents are both now deceased, my family has decided that our house is really too big and impractical for just two people (my mom and I). Take it from me: if you ever want to be massively stressed out, go sell your house. Between clearing out 40 years of stuff, preparing the house for showings, and open houses and, oh yeah, finding somewhere else to live, its been pretty nuts around the hacienda lately.

This is the house I grew up in, the house I went to when I was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, the house of my childhood, the house that holds all the memories of my grandparents who are no longer with us. It’s pretty rare for someone to get to be nearly twenty five and have never moved, but it’s true: this is my only house, ever. Sure, I went away, to college and the dorms and even spent a semester in Europe, but always I knew I had this house to come back to. I’m not going to sugar coat it- I love my house. I love my backyard, I love my room, I love my neighborhood, and I really don’t want to go anywhere else. So apart from the physical details of cleaning and organizing and packing, there are also all the emotional hurdles of saying goodbye and moving on.

It’s like I am being physically thrust into adulthood, sometimes kicking and screaming. The house of my childhood will be gone, the place I thought I would always be able to come back to will be inhabited by new people, making new memories of their own. So now I really have to go out there and find my own life and my own place, because the familiar nostalgia of your first family home isn’t there as a crutch. It’s  Adult time with a capital A, like it or not.

I had an entirely different blog post planned, but I decided that I wanted to share a few of my favorite poems. I wanted a few moments of beauty in an otherwise stressful week.

Poetry may not be everyone’s favorite thing, and I completely understand that. There’s a lot of poetry out there, and a lot of it is really, really bad. But amid the sea of the execrable and the mediocre, there is some beautiful, powerful stuff out there that makes it all worth it. Marianne Moore’s poem, aptly named “Poetry”, describes how I feel about the subject:


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

Marianne Moore

Here are links to a few of my favorite poems:

1) \”Tonight I Can Write\” by Pablo Neruda : This is perhaps one of my favorite poems ever. It’s lovely, and melancoly, and perfect. It reminds me of being awake late at night and hearing the whistle of the trains in the distance. I am tucked snug into bed and I imagine that I am the only one in the whole word to hear that beautiful, mournful sound.

2\”The World is Too Much With Us\” by WIlliam Wordsworth : This is such a classic. Just read it- in a busy hectic world, you can’t get much better than Mr. Wordsworth to remind you where your perspective should be.

3) \”No Second Troy\” by William Butler Yeats : Exquisite. Yeats’ description of his “modern day Helen” gets me every time.

Do you have any favorite poems? Or small moments of beauty that you cherish when everything else can be difficult? Share them with me. I would love to hear them.


8 Responses to “Of Poetry and Stress Relief”

  1. Augie May 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Change is hard, isn’t it?

  2. Abby B May 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Change is hard, especially moving from a place that is and will always be important to you.

    As far as favorite poems: William Carlos Williams “Red Wheelbarrow”. All time favorite poem.

    • amandamcdowell May 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

      Really? “Red Wheelbarrow” is your favorite poem? Why? When I first read it, I actually really hated it, but later I thought about it and it grew on me, but I still much prefer his one about the plums…do you know the one I mean?

  3. Mikisew May 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    One of the things I love about poems is that the words incorporate into our lives. Words that are not our own are somehow instantly recognized as truth, and become part of our inner language, our memories, our flashbacks to houses and rooms and backyards and first kittens and first kisses…

    …and as they become part of us, we realize that most of the things that matter we carry inside us already.

    I love that you mention the new people making new memories in the home you are leaving/taking with you… just imagine years of layers of love and life and experience all in one place… voices echoing over and around each other… You are leaving them such a gift.

    *happy sigh* Thanks for the blog 🙂

    • amandamcdowell May 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

      What a lovely comment. I don’t really have anything to add that you didn’t say perfectly, but it made me very happy. *echoes your happy sigh*

  4. Chanted May 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Change may be hard, but change is what keeps us moving and growing. And you know what that kook Nietzsche said: that which doesn’t kill us… 🙂

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