When I think about self–care and healing, the first thing that comes to my mind is the healing power of poetry.
Poetry has always been a source of support and comfort in difficult moments in my life, as well as a way to celebrate the happiest ones.
Professor of Israeli Literature Ariel Hirschfeld once described one of Natan Alterman’s poems as a railing one may lean on in difficult times. I couldn’t agree more.
Poetry, as the famous Israeli poet Agi Mishol often says, reminds us of ourselves. It reflects our experiences in an articulated way, reminds us of our feelings and thus enables us to reconnect to ourselves.
The best poets are constantly aware of a simple truth- that the world may be a horrible place and a wonderful place at the same time. Thus, their poems offer us new points of view for a familiar reality. In times of crisis, when we are locked in the mental prison of distress, poetry opens a window of new opportunities to understand our situation.
So as the first wave of Covid–19 hit Israel in mid–March, I found myself sharing poems with those dear to my heart: my family, my friends, my colleagues and the community of Wexner Israel alumni. Some of our alumni shared new poems with me, and I passed them along to others, sharing the beauty of words, their empowering and healing power, with those who needed them.
George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote about the difference between apples and ideas applies for poems as well: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
Poems, like ideas, multiply when you share them, and so does their ability to spread hope and optimism where needed.
Below you may read my own translation to two of the Israeli poems I received from two of our WIF alumni (thank you, Gidi Rubinstein (Class 30) and Maurit Be’eri (Class 20)!) and shared with others during the last months.
The poems were written by two young Israeli poets whom I had not heard of before. Getting to know those two new and wise voices was another gift for me, in addition to the poems themselves.
The lockdown regulations published by the end of March 2020 allowed Israelis to get only as far as 100 meters from home. The young poet Roeey Zamir added some silver lining to this depressing message:
The new regulations say
That you can get as far as a hundred meters from home
That there is a home
And it is close
The young Israeli and American poet, Mika Ben Shaul, has beautifully articulated the superpower we all wish we had in times of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity):
If I could ask for a superpower
I wouldn’t ask for a pair of wings,
Flippers or Laser eyes.
I would only ask for the ability to peek a little forward
To peek one day forward
To see that it will be ok tomorrow
Go back to the present
If you, too, are familiar with the healing power of poems, please share your own examples with us.
WIF Alum Dana Savoray-Hadar (Class 17) is Deputy Director, Wexner Israel Programs for The Wexner Foundation. She can be reached here.