In Praise of Poetry that “Makes Your Toe Nails Twinkle”

Connections | poetry

April 30, 2014 | by Amy Ferguson

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry

―Emily Dickinson

One of my earliest memories of poetry is sitting in my mom’s lap listening to her dramatic reading of Ogden Nash’s “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” (a “realio, trulio cowardly dragon”) from a massive, sparsely illustrated volume of children’s literature. This tuned my young ears and mind to poetry in a lasting way.

“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own,” is what the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas said.

It’s this paradox of poetry that taps our deepest selves and—when it’s good—can make us feel either entirely connected or a floating speck in a vast mystery.

Here at Fetzer, we share poetry regularly as a way to open a meeting or to inspire and set intention for our work. There are a few standards we go to often, Marge Piercy’s “To Be of Use,” and David Whyte’s “Working Together,” among them. I love to hear our favorites repeated and to be introduced to the new treasures my workmates find inspiring.

This April—our National Poetry Month—has brought me a wealth of poems and many of them, thankfully, from the voices of those who wrote them. I intend to treat myself beyond April by listening to poetry and to reading a few poems out loud regularly. Here's a start for us all, a moving meditation, "We Are Going Home," powered by Kurtis Lamkin's stirring voice and talent on the kora.

Tell us your favorites. Which poems are your latest treasures?

Amy Ferguson, a communication specialist at the Fetzer Institute, resolves to read a poem a day.