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Living Our Lives Through Poetry

gustave flaubert quote, poetry, particles and life

Rainer Maria Rilke said: “To write poetry is to be alive.” That’s because poetry asks us to pay attention. It asks us to absorb tiny details with each of our senses. To look at something beyond what we see. To taste, to feel, to smell, to listen intently, as though this is our only job. To delve deeper, into the cave of curiosity, questions, colors, images, memories, current moments. To notice what we’ve never noticed before. Or forget to notice on a daily basis, between bills and busy (work, errands, dishes, laundry).

For instance, here’s a poem from Samantha Reynolds, who started penning poetry solely as a way to be present in her life. It’s entitled “My Four-Year-Old Poetry Teacher“:

My brain is jammed
with the noise of errands
and the poem knows it

hiding away
in the quiet
of my ribcage
for a way
back in

which is how I came to see
how the noticing
pours out of you
blunt and new

like the colour of the girl’s hair
in your drawing
that is neither brown nor blonde
and you tell me
it is like a paper bag
which of course it is

and how you describe
grandpa’s face
as mushy
and that a frog
would feel like a bird
if you held it tight
in your hand

and how nuns
look like Red Riding Hood
in black and white
and how library books
smell like closets

so I kept asking
and the answers dropped out of you
obvious as stones
each one a lesson
in what it takes
to be a poet.

April is National Poetry Month. Which makes it the perfect time to play with poetry, the perfect opportunity to pen our own verses. So let’s try that today. Because, well, why not?

Start by brainstorming a list of details. Challenge yourself to pay extra close attention to your surroundings. Write down 10 different things you’ve never noticed before.

The raindrops on the only rose outside your apartment building. The various spices you taste in the meal a loved one made for you. The way your co-worker softly squeals to herself when it’s time for lunch. The five shades of orange in tonight’s sunset. Your son’s big laugh. The heart-shaped mole on your spouse’s skin.

Then pick one detail to elaborate on even further. To go even deeper. As illustrator Maira Kalman does, find the “moments inside the moments inside the moments.”

Or pick several details to excavate. Or make your list into a poem. Check out a beautiful example from Maya Stein, a poem entitled “Where You Can Get It.”

When we write a poem, we breathe deeper. We actually use our senses fully to navigate our world. We use our imagination. We rediscover. Maybe we return to the things we love.

Today, pay deeper attention. Sink into your surroundings. Sink into the current moment. Then write about it. Give yourself permission to live your life in awe.

Living Our Lives Through Poetry

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). Living Our Lives Through Poetry. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Oct 2016
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