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May 4, 2012
WRITTEN BY ELLEN PARKER

Some things should read out loud, especially poetry.

On a recent plane trip, I took a book of poetry by Rumi to read. I have read bits and pieces of his poems and fell in love with his passion.

On an impulse, I picked up a copy of his collected works. Seven months later, my first opportunity to read the book occurs on a plane trip to San Francisco. (A sad commentary on the lack of time for simple pleasures, but that’s for a later discussion.)

After dutifully reading the introduction about ecstatic poetry and the life of Rumi, I was ready for the payoff. The poems.

Silently I read the first one… and was disappointed. No passion, no emotional charge, nothing.  Well, I thought, maybe this one just doesn’t have anything for me. Ah… but not so, the next three were also disappointing.

Determined to connect with the poetry, I skipped forward to the poem that had the “bits and pieces” I first encountered. Again… no emotional impact.

I’m became curious. The first time I heard Rumi’s poetry, it sang to me. It touched my heart. So what’s happening? Then it struck me.

I heard it the first time… it was read to me… the words were spoken.

It couldn’t be that simple could it? Flipping back to the first poem, I read it out loud very softly. Just barely audible to myself. (I was on a packed airplane, after all.)

There was a difference. A small spark of emotion. So quietly, to myself, I recited the next two poems. Again small sparks, but the emotion was tiny, quiet… like my voice.

I put the book away.

Once I got home, and unpacking my suitcase, I came across the book again. I opened to a spot in the middle and read silently the poem on the page. It felt flat, dull and somewhat boring.  Then in a clear, strong loud voice, I let the same poem tumble out of my mouth.

There was the passion; there was the emotional spark.

My body became engage with the meaning of the poem. The words moved through me as I took them in with my eyes. I gave them form with my lips & voice and my ears provided the audience that poetry needs to become alive.

In other words, the poem became me and I became the poem.

That was my first inkling of the power of the spoken word. The words we give voice to have more impact than the others we write. They have a life of they own. Once they leave our body, they can influence, for good or ill, anyone that hears them. Ourselves included, because we hear the words we speak.

Spoken words can’t be crossed out, erased or deleted. They shape how we feel, how we react and how we interact with other people.

Over the last month, I’ve begun to really listen to not only the words I spoke, but also the words of others.  It became apparent that most of us, myself included, tend to speak words unconsciously. What I mean by this is that we speak without thinking about the meaning of the words we’re giving power too. What we say to others, to ourselves, shapes who we are, what we believe, what we value and ultimately the world around us.

If we truly create our own reality, then the words we speak are the bricks and mortar of that reality. We should choose them carefully.

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