Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States
“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it’s to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It’s an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”John Keats
Mindfulness Focus – Sensory Experience
As we enter into autumn and the burnishing colors of change, poetry calls us to consider the idea of bounty, harvest, and transition. Seamus Heaney the Nobel Prize-winning poet of Ireland, and Joy Harjo the current Poet Laureate of the United States, address these themes with wistfulness and poignancy. When reading these poets’ poems, consider the sensory experience of being in the place of the poem. How do Heaney and Harjo conjure up feelings in the reader with the use of their vivid imagery? What do you savor about the poems? What seems mysterious about the poems?
- Place yourself in the setting of the poem. What can you see, hear, taste, touch and smell? What sensation stands out for you in the poem?
- What is the pace of the poem? Does it move quickly or slowly? Boldly or timidly?
- What is the voice of the poem? For example, is it relaxed, passionate? Humorous or sober?
- What do you notice or appreciate about the poem?
- What connections do you have to the poem? What chord does the poem strike in you? Memories or experiences that you’ve had?
- How do you feel as you read the poem? What is the mood of the poem – the “emotional weather” of the poem?
- What dazzles you in the poem? What line or image “lights up” for you?
- How has the poem continued its effect on you since our mindful reading?
Visit our Mindful Poetry Reading page to learn more about this program.
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