Poetry and I go way back. For as long as I can remember I’ve been practicing some form of writing including journaling, essays, and poetry. I’ve had one poem published. And have written at least a thousand more. Whenever I feel the need to decompress, I turn to poetry. It has been one of my truest friends. It has provided safety when I’ve felt most alone. It has given me countless lifetimes of inspiration. And it has continually brought me back into alignment during moments of imbalance. Poetry is a major part of my self-care practice. Through every cycle, shift, and transformation. But I didn’t always see it this way.
“turning at last
on a stem like a black fruit
in my own season
—Lucille Clifton, turning
Poetry and self-care both require a lot of tenderness. There is a process of peeling back the layers. Uncovering things that are uncomfortable. And sometime, as a result, we come undone. Often, when we show up for the work, we are healed in ways we never imagined were possible.
“Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.“
—Audre Lorde, A Woman Speaks
To celebrate the summer solstice, and give honor to the #MyYoungerSelf campaign, I re-read through some of my favorite poems and poets, and am sharing five that resonate with me the most. These are the cornerstone works I’d give to my younger self, as encouragement to love and trust myself more.
Poem age 7
For the little girl who was bullied, and developed severe anxiety.
“I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve,
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.”
—Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
Poem age 14
For the teenager who yearned for rites of passage in order to understand her place in the world.
Running home after all this time.
Bring yourself in full light,
Shine magnificent in the dawn
The crown of you is beaming
Beyond human structure.
Shine magnificent in the day
A stroke of insight
—Christian Totty, You, On Purpose
Poem age 21
For the young woman who didn’t trust her intuition; who followed along and didn’t question.
“You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
—Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
Poem age 28
For the woman who slowly began to listen deeply to the songs of her ancestors.
“That’s when the rain begins,
and when the mouth of the river sings,
water flows from it
back to the cellular sea
and along the way
earth sprouts and blooms, the grandmothers
keep following creation
that opens before them
as they sing.”
—Linda Hogan, The Grandmother Songs
Poem age 35
For the woman today who continues to lean into loving herself whole.
“To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.”
—Joy Harjo, Eagle Poem
May this solstice bring you and yours deep abundance.