Art to Heal Your Heart II
Some people think poetry is not for everybody. But poetry is for everybody--it's just a few poets and scholars who want you to crawl. Poetry fuels the world. All that I write today has within it that secret key: poems. I was a real prose lover as a kid--I was eating all books alive. But I still remember the vivid slice poetry took out of my world when I discovered it in my mid-teens. Wham! It hit like an axe cutting deep into heartwood. And it has remained, a white cut through the middle, like a lightning bolt at midnight. Vivid and pure. I have 1,000 or more books of poems around my desk. I am an avid writer of poems (I cannot bring myself to say "I am a poet"--that's like claiming you are a wise man or a seer...just too much to say). But I am even more an avid reader of poems.

Art to Heal Your Heart is a way for us to be still a moment and draw breath. There is still clean air to be had in this irradiated world. Still a moment of peace we can wrestle from the clanging and the bombing and the burning and the screaming. You have read my books--you know I dawdle on the Dark Side. I'm no polyanna. But I like, as Pete Townshend once sang in the Who, every minute of the day.

Gather your soul to you and attend to its wounds. You are bleeding, my friend. If you live in this world and are awake at all, you're bleeding.

Read this, to begin. You won't be sorry. I am making no claims for great Art, although I do believe it is great. And moral. And healing. If that makes us soft-headed and retro, so be it.

I recommend Ted Kooser's Winter Morning Walks. You can get it at for about eight bucks.

Here's why: Ted Kooser, the Bard of Nebraska, was our Poet Laureate for the United States. It is central to his art to speak in real English about real issues regarding the human journey--and this does not in any way diminish the profundity of his humble work. If you can see Issa and Ikkyu as humble, you can easliy enter Ted Kooser's calm world. However, there is an added element to this slim book that makes it unbearably touching to me.

The poet had cancer. He underwent treatment and, I believe, harrowing surgey. He wouldn't ever talk about it in his work--this is not a "poor me" volume. No, Ted Kooser had to walk for exercise to recover. But because of whatever medical parameters he was facing, he could not walk in full sun. So he rose before dawn every morning that year and walked the country roads around his farmland in Nebraska. From dark to dawn, every day. Just the poet and the world. And he'd come home and write a poem/post-card to his good friend, Jim Harrison. Another master of living work, by the way.

This book of 100 tender small poems is taken from those cards.

You will feel better.

And, if you love the book--how can you not?--Harrison and Kooser wrote a kind of companion piece together: Braided Creek. Small poems going back and forth through the mail, a correspondence in proto-haiku, if you will. Just lovely. These two books, together, might make you take your coffee outside and pull your heavy sweater tight in the Fall chill and allow the cardinals and the late mums and the squirrels and the strangely burning leaves of the maple and the birch to minister to you. Even if they're only in your memory.

If you don't love these books, I'll tell you what. Wait till I get my movie money, and I'll pay you back.

Feel joy--soul is in the smallest thing.

"Fresh snow standing deep
on the phone wire. If you call me,
speak softly."
(From Braided Creek.)

Here's to you, L

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