To celebrate O's first-ever poetry issue, we asked you to share the poems that moved you, encouraged you, or sustained you during a difficult time. Here's a selection of poetry that was especially meaningful to you.
"Treat everyone with respect; No one is better than you or beneath you. Be able to dine with Kings or paupers, Kellee."
I'm not sure I knew what a pauper was the first time my Dad uttered these words of wisdom (I was probably only 4), but over the years these thoughts and others like them became part of my consciousness and helped make me who I am today. Thirty (something) years later, I found out that many of my dad's ideas came from a single poem that used to hang in his living room when he was just a boy. He read it nearly every day.
"If" by Rudyard Kipling now hangs above my son's crib... and "if" I'm lucky, Kilpling's words will help shape the man he will someday become.
—Submitted by Kellee Sheehee, Oceanside, CA
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
My favorite poem is by Robert Frost. I memorized this poem for myself when I was a teenager. I have repeated it like a little prayer whenever I have needed peace, or to reassure myself that there are 'saturated meadows' for me to find.
—Submitted by Carroll Green, Kalamazoo, MI
A saturated meadow,
Sun-shaped and jewel-small,
A circle scarcely wider
Than the trees around were tall;
Where winds were quite excluded,
And the air was stifling sweet
With the breath of many flowers,—
A temple of the heat.
There we bowed us in the burning,
As the sun's right worship is,
To pick where none could miss them
A thousand orchises;
For though the grass was scattered,
Yet ever second spear
Seemed tipped with wings of color
That tinged the atmosphere.
We raised a simple prayer
Before we left the spot,
That in the general mowing
That place might be forgot;
Or if not all so favored,
Obtain such grace of hours,
That none should mow the grass there
While so confused with flowers.
I am a graphic designer/art director originally from South Korea. I came to the States at the age of 13 with my father and his wife, who is not my biological mother. In fact, I have no memory of my mother, nor do I possess even a single picture of her. My father was both physically and verbally abusive throughout my childhood and would not reveal the story that has left me always wondering how a mother could leave her newborn child and let so many years go by without attempting any communication.
A few years ago, I discovered that my birth mother was married with three children. As I have all my life, I was so angry that I had endured such pain and suffering, that I told myself to forget the past and simply move on; just accept my fate like a grown woman. Nevertheless, the simple task has never been an easy one.
Recently, I was nearly bankrupt from the loss of my job and bad business dealings. Not to mention an extremely rare disease called anencephaly robbed my daughter of life on earth. Now with all that's transpired, I am struggling to move forward. On my bad days when I'm laying lifeless in bed, I read a poem that inspired Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment. It was written to R. T. Hamilton Bruce by William Ernest Henley, called Invictus.
—Submitted by Christine Evans, Leonia, NJ
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
—William Ernest Henley
I have always loved "Sea Fever" by John Masefield. I am a land-locked prairie girl that longs to live by the ocean. Whenever I read the poem, I can imagine the smell of the salt air, the wind on my face and the movement of the waves as I sail towards my destiny.
—Submitted by Kathy Baker, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
My favorite poem is by Moslih Eddin Saadi, a 13th century Persian poet. It is from a book called The Gulistan of Saadi ("gulistan" is rose garden), a collection of stories and poems. My father was a difficult man whose soft side was never apparent. When I was quite young, I heard him utter this poem, and I remember being astonished as to how something so simple and beautiful could come from someone so rough and intimidating. I think I held onto the poem because it gave me reason to believe deep inside him, there was a kind and gentle man.
—Submitted by Anne Salopek, Albuquerque, NM
If of thou earthly goods thou art bereft
Of thy meager store two loaves alone to thee are left
Sell one and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul
—Moslih Eddin Saadi
When my father died, I felt gutted. A very large portion of my identity was being a daughter and without him, I didn't feel I knew myself. The poem "Death is Nothing at All" by Henry Scott-Holland grounded me. I would read it several times a day to remind myself that although I felt the best part of me was gone, I was still okay because the best part of my father was still in me. Each time I read the poem I felt he was close to me, and I was going to be okay. It helped me move when I felt I was frozen.
—Submitted by Susan Scott, Austin, TX
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be the household name it always was. Let it be spoken without the shadow of a ghost in it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. What is death but a negligible accident. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of your sight. All is well, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
Printed from Oprah.com on Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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