• Nora Curry

Mental Health Awareness Month: How to Love the World

"Poetry is an art form especially suited to our challenging times." - James Crews


We may loves books and libraries largely because of the power of words, but in a heartbreaking week like this past one, it surely seems that words cannot solve everything and fully heal the world. Nevertheless, there's something special about poetry as a reserve of strength in difficult times. Do you ever get lines from poems and books stuck in your head the way you would a song? For me, one that has always been running under the surface of my thoughts is Dickinson's "'Hope' is the thing with feathers." No, poetry can't fix everything, but perhaps it can give voice to hope, which "never stops - at all."


As mentioned last week, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For someone living with any kind of mental health challenge, the suggestion or command to have hope and take things one step at a time can seem unsympathetic and even ridiculous. Mindfulness, breathing exercises, relishing the small things... these are tools that can work to improve a mindset but are easier said than done and cannot in and of themselves solve all challenges of a mental illness. Yet it's certainly true that, however difficult, the ability to get out of one's head, so to speak, and absorb the pleasures of simple moments, can be life-saving. Even if only for one moment.


Poet James Crews has edited two recent anthologies of poetry that revolve around the importance of the often quite small things and moments that make life worth living, even during the most challenging times. 2021's How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope and the more recent The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy include a variety of poems by both well and lesser known poets that reflect the themes of their titles, along with meditation and writing prompts from Crews. Reports of mental health struggles have increased drastically throughout the past two years as everyone grapples in their own way with the pandemic's repercussions, and Crews thus recognized "the necessity of joy," as articulated in the introduction to How to Love the World. In describing his purpose as editor, Crews shares, "These poets know that hope, no matter how slight it may seem, is as pressing a human need right now as food, water, shelter, or rest."


In light of Mental Health Awareness Month and the devastating events in our country this week, please consider these poems, one from each of Crews' anthologies, not as final answers to the struggles of mental illness or the violence in the world, but as a beacon and offering of hope.


Hope


Hope has holes

in its pockets.

It leaves little

crumb trails

so that we,

when anxious,

can follow it.

Hope’s secret:

it doesn’t know

the destination—

it knows only

that all roads

begin with one

foot in front

of the other.

- Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

From How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope


 

At the Creek


I go to the creek with my daughter.

We squat at the water's edge

and look around. Some pebbles,

a few sticks, a cottonwood leaf.

With these we make a tiny world

in which nothing moves.


Would that be heaven then

where all things come to rest?


It's as if I stand

once again by my desk

on the first day of school

and the teacher calls my name,

and I say, "Here."


She looks up and smiles

at me and I at her. "Here,"

I say again, "Here."


- David Romtvedt

The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy

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