Poetry is the perfect way to start your day. It’s quiet, inspirational, and requires a bit of mindfulness.
Not only does reading poetry help clear your head, but the practice can also help set a tone for your day ahead.
One of the best things I’ve ever done was to initiate a morning poetry routine. I keep a book of poems pretty much everywhere — on my bedstand, near my french press in the kitchen, and on the table by the sofa. This way, I don’t need to go totally out of my way to find or read poetry. The poems are already everywhere!
Whether you’re a poetry enthusiast or a poet yourself, building poetic moments into your life make for a more colorful, lush existence. In reality, we’re showered with workaday commitments and familial pressures and financial ebbs and flows.
However, in the world of poetry, we’re ushered into a space of reflection and introspection, which can be a means of escape as much as it can help us fine-tune the antennas of our emotional receptivity. In fact, research shows that poetry literally triggers a “reward” response in our brain, eliciting goosebumps and chills caused by emotion. That’s kind of incredible, right?
All of this poetic goodness has the potential to help us manage our everyday lives with more gratitude, insight, and even hope. And we all do need a little hope — especially in these trying times.
Listen to a poetry podcast on your commute
If you can’t exactly read while commuting (I live in NYC and take the subway, but many of you are drivers), I’d suggest listening to a poetry podcast. Not only is this a good way to turn your brain on before work (make sure you’ve got your coffee on-hand!), it’s an easy way to fill your space and mind with beauty and art — something that is sorely missed during those pollution-saturated, honking-filled, traffic-like-crazy commutes.
The New Yorker has a poetry podcast that delivers new and important poetry about once a month. For something less institutional, check out Talk About Poetry, where working poets get together to talk about poems they like, are interested in, engaged by, or are annoyed by. It’s also not scripted at all, which means you get to not only discover poems but the poets — and their real-life personalities — behind the poem.
Read & Write Poetic Morning Pages
If you’re one of those mysterious morning people who actually like being awake before everyone else — excuse me while I desperately hit the snooze button about seven times — you may be well-suited for this suggestion: Morning Pages. Morning pages is a popular writer’s practice (well, for those of us who can wake the hell up) in which you simply free-write first thing in the morning. Some writers work on a specific project while others just sort of go wild with self-censorship, editing, or direction.
In this practice, you’ll read a poem or two of your choosing and then write a poem in response. You may choose to respond literally (for example, you might incorporate elements of that poem in your own) or you can simply write something triggered by an emotional or visceral reaction to what you’d just read.
Meditate on a Poem Throughout Your Day
Read a poem in the morning over tea or coffee, before your morning run or while you’re taking the bus to work. Ask yourself these questions:
- What does this poem intend to express?
- What is it doing for me?
- What does it remind me of?
- Which words confuse me?
- Which words make sense to me?
- What do I wish to know about this poem?
Throughout the day, check in with yourself. Reread the poem, ponder the line or two you decided you’d think about and come back to the poem with fresh eyes at noon, three, or six o clock. How does the poem change as night falls? What have you realized that you didn’t before?
Whichever exercise you decide to adopt, read a poem every day. This practice will fill your world with wonder while training you to create a wellness-boosting literary timeout just for yourself.