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a somewhat tangental comment, but i have recently read a great non-fiction companion to Grapes of Wrath that others might be interested in: "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan - the stories of those who, rather than becoming "exodusters", stayed on the plains during the great dust bowl period. the level of hardship faced is extreme and painful, especially in light of the knowledge that the greatest contributing factors to the disaster were human.
i'm now rereading "i know why the caged bird sings" by Maya Angelou, also describing poverty in the1930s. both books have made for interesting reflection on what we understand by "economic crisis". both also depict the respective roles of racism and religion in the midst of hardship.

as for poetry, i guess it represents for me the importance of looking beyond the things "you can't take with you". we need water, food and a roof over our head in order to have health but the things that nourish and fulfill our lives beyond basic and necessary comforts are not more of the material but the nourishment of our emotional, spiritual, creative, relational selves.

two poets have dominated the past year for me... Mary Oliver's collection, Thirst, deals with death of a life partner and place of faith in grieving. i think her poems are often best described as the search for the moments in life that make one truly rich, moments of encounter with real beauty, even when one is in pain.

we have built so much of contemporary culture on what is on the outside, not on the inside. on what makes for a "successful" life rather than what makes for a beautiful flourishing, love filled life. poetry, like all creative forms means something to me when it speaks to what matters to me deep on the inside as a human being.

the other poet is John O'Donohue. he had a deep impact on my life and my community, as did his death. when i feel despair, i turn to my memories of him and his words to be reminded of what matters most.
as i look to a future in uncertain economic climate, their words help me as i seek to live out what i truly value. i no longer think in terms of career, but in terms of what my vocation as a human being might be.