Sam Radford

April 26, 2021

“I want to know what you ache for”

I’m not a poetry person. I would love to be, but it hardly ever clicks for me. 

Every so often I’ll give another collection of poems a try, but no matter how hard I try, I still don’t get it. 

My friend Beth, a former English teacher, even made it her personal mission to help me love poetry. I think she’s given up! 

After watching – and enjoying – Dickinson on Apple TV+, I bought a collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I tried numerous times to dip into them but, again, no joy; no resonance. 

I know poetry can be powerful though. I wrote last week about knowing that transcends the intellectual and the rational, and there's no denying that poetry can help with that. 

And don’t get me wrong, poetry can move me. 

Individual poems I discover by chance, or am sent, can be incredibly provocative. Lines jump out and ’speak’ to me. I love the way a poem can do that. 

It’s a very serendipitous relationship I have with poetry though. 

All that to say this: I came across The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer in a newsletter I subscribe to, and I loved it! It turns out it’s a famous poem and there’s a book expanding on the poem too. 

Like all good poetry, it can be hard to put into words exactly what makes something evocative, but all I can say is this has been a delight to ponder these last few days.

It doesn't interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

. . . I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

. . . I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know what you ache for. I can’t escape the clutches of that line.

Gems like this are why I refuse to give up on poetry. And I will continue to savour my serendipitous relationship with it. Perhaps I just have to accept that a book of poetry is not my way into poetry’s mysteries and wonders. 

–Sam

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