Hero's Poetry Journey
deep in the heart
Hello, Poetry Friend
My hard times always come in spring, when the temperature is perfect, the wildflowers are gorgeous, and all hail breaks loose. Most of my difficulties concern some aspect of motherhood.
I love writing about my mom, but I rarely write about myself as a mother: too many failures. However, I am currently re-examining those. As poet Louise Glück says, “It was a quite marvelous feeling — that my current sense of failure might not be so reliable.”
Recently a friend was trying to make sense of our family’s hard times. He pressed, “But what you have learned?” My friend wanted an equation: Solve for X and advise others how not to go astray. Through angry tears I said something I’ve never even dared to think: “I was a good mother,” I told him. Not perfect (God, no). Maybe not good enough. But good.
How do I know this? Through memorizing poetry.
Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But word by word, line by line, poem by poem, I find who I am and what I need for this journey — one that doesn’t always feel heroic. Five minutes a day for four years adds up to fifty-seven poems deep in my heart. Poetry memorization re-centers me. Each line learned reappears right when I need it.
So for the next fourteen weeks I’ll share a poem I’ve learned by heart that corresponds to a stage of the hero’s journey.
My journey. Maybe yours too. (Even if you are not a mother, surely you have had a mother or known one.)
For me, a poem need not be explicitly about motherhood to speak to me about that very institution. And, for me, reading poetry always leads to writing poetry. On our hero’s poetry journey together, I’ll invite you to write haiku about motherhood.
I’ve been writing a haiku a day for six years. Back in the spring of 2019, when we had cardinals build a nest not once but twice in our mountain laurel bush, I wrote a series of haiku about Mama Cardinal.
They may not be very good haiku. But they are good representations of my experience of motherhood. Here’s one of them:
Mama Cardinal sits on her eggs all day in pouring rain — just takes it
Join me as we travel the Hero’s Poetry Journey. Even learning one line a week from the poem I’ll share will provide us with something we need — minute by minute, step by step, even failure by failure.
Read my cardinal haiku. (I have another one up at meganwillome.com.) What does the poem say to you about motherhood?
Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to you.
Read the poem again, aloud (if you didn’t the first time). Since this one is short, try to learn it all by heart.
Write your own haiku about motherhood which uses a bird as a grounding image. If you like, email me what you write.
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