Monday Feature by Michaela Kahn: Can Poetry Save Lives?

Can Poetry Save Lives?

Maybe a poem isn’t going to knit a broken bone, or sew up a wound … but I wonder – can poetry save lives? In those dark hours full of complicated questions or those lonely moods that can swallow us like a fog, in a time of serious decision … can a poem find its way to us, let a color or complexity in?

In some of the darkest times of my own life, poetry has been a life raft. And in the times even worse than that, my own demon has actually, actively kept me away from poetry – a sort of self-starvation in the midst of my depression or grief. That’s why I believe in it. Because when I could finally get myself to the place where I could sit down and read a poem … perspective and equilibrium weren’t too far behind. It wasn’t about the poem solving anything … it was about finding a way to return to the world.

Anyway, survival requires more than just a beating heart … the heart needs something to beat for.

Here is a poem that works this kind of magic for me.

“O Taste and See”

by Denise Levertov

The world is
not with us enough.
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

Into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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