Another year, another healing poem? – Shaw Local

“A long time ago I wrote a poem titled ‘What Would a Poet Do?’ In my reflection, I considered how poets react to world events differently from the general population. I mentioned how the poem of Oliver Wendell Holmes 1830s “Old Ironsides had raised public awareness and helped save the ship USS Constitution from dismantling. I quoted how Mary Oliver’s call in “A Summer’s Day” – “What are you going to do with your wild and precious life?” – is a call to action for each of us to live every day fully.

Some of what I wrote was based on Naples Daily News columnist Michael Hickey’s idea that poetry is the language of wisdom. I hypothesized that poets have something to say that engages their readers in a new way. Now that 2021 is behind us, I wonder again what role poetry has played in your life – whether or not you call yourself a poet or a reader of poems; that is, did any of you use verses to aid your struggle?

It’s April, National Poetry Month, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to showcase the achievements and contributions of American poets and encourage their support and work. During this month, particular emphasis is placed on verse, but evidence from regional bookstores has shown me that poetry did not sit idly on the shelves for the other 11 months.

The Lake Forest Book Store reports on inaugural poet and Super Bowl LV Amanda Gorman, whose new book, “Call Us What We Wear,” was number three on their Top Ten Books Sold in 2021. Customers have bought 212 copies containing lines like these: “Every day we learn to live with gasoline, not with ease; how to move with haste, never hate.

Heidi Schmidt, manager/purchaser of Town House Books in St. Charles, says of her experience: “We believe in the importance of literature in general and poetry in particular in helping us through of confusion. It’s encouraging to see that more people seem to be tapping into the unique role poetry can play in their lives. Audre Lorde: Collected Poems’ is by far our best-selling poetry.

I asked owner Arlene Lynes how many books of poetry were sold in 2021 at independent bookstore Read Between The Lynes in Woodstock. His discovery: 179 collections of poetry, including 51 “Call Us What We Carry” by Gorman, 23 years old. However, a wide variety of other publications had been chosen, including “180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day” by Billy Collins. In addition, I was fortunate to receive a popular volume from my daughter for Christmas: “Poet Warrior, A Memoir,” written by current American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the first Indigenous person to be named a State Poet Laureate. -United. This excerpt from his poem “Don’t Bother the Earth Spirit” demonstrates Harjo’s connection to his roots:

“Do not disturb the spirit of the earth that lives here.

She is working on a story.

It’s the oldest story in the world

and it is delicate, changing.

If she sees you staring,

she will invite you for a coffee,

give you hot bread,

and you will be compelled to stay and listen.

As poetry books were purchased and read over the past year, bards on many levels continued to write. My dear friend and Cary resident, Jerry Wendt, would often email me early in the morning saying, “The muse struck again in the night and I wrote this poem as soon as I got up. What do you think?” He was a poet friend of mine — an honest critic of my work — as I was of his. Before he died unexpectedly on December 17, 2021, he sent me ” The Old Farm”. Now, the last verse seems prophetic.

“A fleeting setting sun

casts orange and pink highlights

from the old barn

on my steep face,


that end for both of us is near.

While curling up, I took two two-part Zoom poetry classes offered by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets of which I am a member. The second class focused on studying and writing mourning poems. My offering below chronicles the many deaths recorded in the newspapers over the past year:


“My friends die asking,

‘Where did the time go?’

Their lives were segmented:

Work, eat, love, sleep,

death always the last piece.

I want to answer, ‘An endless time

not going anywhere, dear friends,

but our lives float

like specks of dust

in the morning sun.’”

Poets have continued to observe and write over the past year. Their authentic voices gave others permission to express their feelings. Writer Bijal A. Shah says, “Poetry is one of the most powerful forms of therapy. In a time of loss of spontaneity and control, poetry helps people heal and move on.

Last year many of you invited a poem into your life; but yet another poem is waiting to be read. Last year, people kept writing; but yet another page is waiting to be filled. And I wonder what a poet will do to bear witness to our common humanity in 2022.

• Jan Bosman of Woodstock taught English and business for 32 years, the last 22 at Johnsburg High School. She is also a published essayist and poet and a member of the Atrocious Poets of McHenry County and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.