A Poetry Prescription for Tough Times
Have you ever been feeling really low, and then you come across a piece of writing – a poem, a quote, the lyrics from a song – and the words seem to speak directly to what you’re experiencing, resonating deep within your soul?
I love how just the right words at just the right time can change everything for the better.
So when I wrote my latest novel, The Paris Network, about a bookstore owner in occupied France during World War 2, I began with the idea that she would issue literary ‘prescriptions’ to her customers, to help keep their spirits up and encourage them to resist the Nazis.
It was a great opportunity to reference some of the poems that have helped me the most, like ‘Go to The Limits of Your Longing‘ by Rainier Maria Rilke.
This poem helped me through an extremely tough time when someone very close to me was diagnosed with cancer. In particular I loved this stanza and would read it over and over again for inspiration…
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror.
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
When faced with terrifying or difficult times, like a cancer diagnosis, or war, the instinct can be to try to push away the feeling. Why would we want to sit with our terror? Surely it would be far better to fight the fear, or lose ourselves in distractions.
But in my experience, whenever I try to block an unpleasant feeling it only seems to grow.
Rilke’s poem taught me that, by letting everything happen to me, the scary feelings became a whole lot more manageable and I was able to keep going.
I hope it does the same for you too. So today, my poetry prescription for you is to read Go To The Limits of Your Longing by Rilke. I hope you find it as comforting and inspiring as I have over the years.
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