Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Power of Poetry

We are living through a worldwide pandemic, a social movement, economic challenges and personal crisis. It is a time for prayer and for poetry, especially for our youth.

Poetry ought to be like a fish to water for teenagers. Any form of literature that is short passes their muster. Poetry is highly symbolic and open to interpretation. A lot of kids like it when there are no *right* answers. There are certainly better ones, I contend. Analysis aside, I believe now might is the time to write and read, savor and share poetry. 
Poetry allows a person to express how they feel directly or indirectly. It can be a safe way to share one's fragility, anger, disappointment...even rage. Poetry opens a window to the heart and the soul for it asks something of the person behind the pen. A poet is tasked with imparting belief, expectation, hope and fear. Love and loss are no strangers to poetry for good reason! 

I have long believed that poetry and music, poetry and painting and poetry and prayer go hand in hand. It should come as no surprise that six books in the Bible are known as books of poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations. These books are almost entirely made up of poems, songs, and wise sayings that the ancient Jews (and the Christians who followed) used to make wise decisions and worship God. Indeed poetry is integral to many faith traditions, cultures and ages. 
The hall of fame basketball coach, Phil Jackson used literature as a way to reach his players. In the book "Eleven Rings" he said, "
Getting the players to turn inword wasn’t always easy. Not everyone on the bus was interested in “spiritual” realization. But I didn’t hit them over the head with it. My approach with subtle. Every year the team went on a long West Coast trip in November when the circus took over the stadium for a few weeks. Before the trip I would select a book for each of the players to read, based on what I knew about them. Here’s a typical list: Song of Solomon for Michael Jordan, Things Fall Apart for Bill Cartwright and Zen and the Art of motorcycle Maintenance for John Paxson." I have long wondered if any coach has even given every player a poem. How might our athletes be different if we did? Or if we shared one of their poems with one another?!

I believe poetry is a privileged place for a young person to share who they are and what matters to them. Why not encourage their voice to be heard? For example, I am confident many athletes would write a poem about their sport right now. They miss the competition, the team and the memories that are made. Others may speak to the struggles people of color face in the US. Perhaps one of our own students, through poetry, would have the courage to share a difficult experience of racism or witnessing hate. 

Opening our athletes and teams up to poetry might need to be modeled by coaches and captains. It can start with the sharing of a favorite poem, or one that resonates with your sport. Perhaps you can read a poem from a student publication or even write your own. Like prayer, it need not be perfect. Poetry is self-disclosure, it is communication and it talking and it is listening. And no pressure—you GET to keep it short!
I will close with a poem from the literary student magazine out of St. Ignatius College Prep: "The Quill: 2015." 

I Hear SI's Tennis Courts Singing
I hear SI's tennis courts signing, a cacophony that rings in my ears;
Thundering thuds of bouncing balls.
Constant clamor of the coach's correction,
And incessant moans and groans of players' triumph and despair,
Coalesce into a melody without compare.
As the server swings swiftly under the grueling sun's heat.
I remind myself to inhale and exhale.,
For now marks my time to truly prevail.
Although my heightening nerves nearly immobilize me,
My teammates' love empowers me with glee.
As they passionately scream, "You can do this, B!"
My soul then inspires me to play truly free—
Free to exhibit confidence and self-assurance,
Since with my girls by my side, I possess endless endurance.
I turn to my left and see the luminous green balls beside the net,
Then I turn to my right and see the support in my teammates' eye
gleam as bright as a starry night.
I hear SI's tennis courts singing a commanding symphony.
A tribute to community and to family.
A song for the ones who love me for me:
The girl who aims to dictate her own destiny.
Beata Vayngortin '16

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