I’ve recently been the recipient of a handful of chain email plans, all with one idea: share quotes from poems that have been meaningful, inspiring, or comforting to you. The details of how many people are involved may differ, but the basic idea is the same. And I always, always refuse to join chain emails, because I know how often my friends complain of their overflowing inboxes and the sheer amount of minutiae they manage every single day. I don’t want to add to their sense of overwhelm, even to ask them to read something I loved.
But it seems to me indicative of the time we’re living in that these chains are going around. Many others have pointed out that people often turn to poetry in times of great distress: national or personal grief, upheaval, and uncertainty. And for me, at least, and most of my friends, we have been living in a heightened sense of distress since the November 2016 presidential election. We were shaken awake, so that we have been more aware of not only the damaging policies and rhetoric of politicians in our own country, but in the world. We have been living the effects of climate change. We have been treading water in a deep sea, and tiring more every day.
Yet only now do I see these poetry chain email requests—not three years ago, or two, or even one. These are coming around when we have some hope again, in the form of the Democratic candidates for president. Yes, there’s also an impeachment inquiry, and perhaps that offers a sliver of hope as well. Maybe we can see an end to the head of the U.S. political system being a person who spouts—and legislates—hate. Maybe we can have some relief from the barrage of news about words and policies that undo the humanity of us all.
In that spirit, I want to participate in the poetry chain emails. So I will share some of my favorite quotes here, and hope they may speak to you. They are not, actually, political, despite my musings here. They speak to and of the human condition—which, I suppose, may be political after all.
Speaking of the political and poetry, I’m surprised to discover that the first quotes that come to me are by dead male poets. The poets I read most—and have read for years—are women. But I think I dive into their books and swallow their words whole rather than picking and choosing one poem or quote from a body of work. In any case please forgive me, and please feel free to add your favorite poetry and/or inspiring quotes in the comments below.