Cultivating a Poetry Practice
As detailed in my previous post, after learning all about Coach Wooden, I read and studied all of his work with a voracious appetite to learn and a grateful heart for the spirit and gift I had discovered. The thing that Coach expresses first and foremost in most of his work is his great respect, love and admiration for his father, Joshua Wooden. As you read Coach’s work, it is quite something to hear about his childhood on the farm and the many life lessons he encountered there. His parents were a great example of exemplary character through hardships and all life brought their way. It was quite meaningful to have a glimpse into another time with such amazing people working so hard without complaint.
One of the great things Coach shared was about his father reading to his children at night. He grew up with no electricity, plumbing, or conveniences. For their entertainment, his father read to them by the light of a coal-oil lamp. He read them a lot of poetry and Shakespeare and more. In Coach’s own words he says, ” The poetry Dad read to us when we were kids instilled a love of reading, English, books and knowledge.” He also recalls, “Dad reminded me often, ‘Johnny, you’ll never learn a thing that you didn’t learn from someone else.’ Good books help us do that.”
When Coach graduated from grade school, his father gave him what he called The Gift of A Lifetime...it was a little card that had a very special verse on one side and a list of “Seven Things to Do” on the other side. He eventually called the seven things “Dad’s Seven Point Creed”… When his Dad handed him the card, all he said was, “Son, try and live up to these things.” In Coach’s humble way, when sharing about these things, he says he wishes he could say he lived up to them. He says he tried. I think we can all see how he more than tried, he soared. He lived up to his father’s Seven Point Creed and he brought it to so many in a time when it is so needed.
Number four on the list was, “Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.” Coach certainly did that. His love of books and reading started those nights listening to his father reading. When I learned of this in his various retellings of it, it hit me deep and it changed me. I thought of my own little ones and my heart tugged and I remember feeling, “Oh, how I wish we lived in a time when we could do this.”…next thought was something like, “Duh, we can do this now.” Mad dash to the computer to order poetry books and our family poetry nights began…
We have kept with family poetry nights over the years and we have practiced in various ways. At first we would rotate turns and let each family member lead the reading and discussion. Whoever’s night it was would read the poem and then we would all discuss what it meant to each of us. It was delightful to hear how we would each interpret things in our own way. It also helped us to understand each other better and see things through the eyes of our loved ones. We went through a stage of everyone reading each night, as we discussed several poems or at least listened to several. We began to crave going deeper into just one or two poems again, so we returned to assigning nights. Sometimes the kids are so enthusiastic, we read more. We are going with the flow of it now.
Our family poetry practice has been a great gift in our lives. Poetry cannot be read quickly, you must slow down and give it your full attention. It speaks to the soul. It brings meaning to our days. We are by no means poetry experts, we simply follow our hearts toward what speaks to us. It has led to so many wonderful works, discussions and experiences. Often when we’re out in the world, one of the kids will see something that reminds them of a poem…they will begin reciting it and excitedly experiencing life in a deeper way. It is miraculous. The poetry doesn’t just stay in the house with us where we practice it…it lives with us all the time and blesses us constantly. We love reading poetry from all corners of the world, it connects us to more than our lives here. We have been blessed by poetry in our lives in countless ways.
As the years of our poetry practice are adding up, I can truly see just how much it has added to our children’s lives. It makes them willing to look deeper at things and try to understand that which isn’t immediately obvious. It has also developed their love of reading and learning in so many ways. For my husband and I, it has been equally amazing. Cultivating a poetry practice was new for us both and it has been the most delightful gift. The poems have a way of finding us. We have been exposed to so much more than we expected. We will keep this family practice alive in our home and hearts as long as possible and continue to cultivate it and go deeper and deeper into our practice. We are grateful for this gift!
Wishing you a life full of poetry!