The Poetry of Transformation

8 Things poets and monastics know about the power of words

By Tracy Rittmueller | October 25, 2018

This is part 3 of the series 8 Things Poets and Monastics Can Teach Us About Happiness; with 8 Poems to Make Life More Meaningful. For part 1 of the series, go here. About words…. We think we know what words are—the spoken sounds and written letters we combine to form sentences to convey what we mean. Words carry on conversations, broadcast news, spread rumors, make promises, utter threats, express complex emotions, form ideals, formulate questions, make peace, build a better world, destroy reputations, crush hope, and declare war. Words are powerful.  Poets and monastics are word-centered people.  Poets use words …

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8 Things Poets and Monastics Can Teach Us About Happiness; with 8 Poems to Make Life More Meaningful–Part 1 of a series

By Tracy Rittmueller | October 6, 2018

What poets and monastics have in common When people think about what poets and monastics (monks and nuns who live in monasteries) have in common, the list might look like this: They have their heads in the clouds; They’re hermits;. They dress weird; And they’re dying off.  Like all potent rumors, there’s a smidgeon of truth in each of those statements. Poets and monastics do tend to contemplate the nonmaterial world  —  love, death, memory, dreams, intuition, emotions, and the spiritual life. The work of poets (studying literature and writing poems) and of monastics (praying and reading scripture) frequently causes …

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23 Spiritual Practices Taught by The Rule of Benedict

By Tracy Rittmueller | September 27, 2018

What do spiritual practices do? Practice is how people develop the skills to become adept at anything. Music students practice their instruments. Gymnasts practice routines, yoga students practice poses, swimmers practice strokes, and tennis players practice their serves. Successful organizational leaders practice self-mastery and teamwork. Just as all these people practice to become more proficient, spiritual seekers practice in order to become better at living a spiritual life.  What is the Rule of Benedict? Do you yearn for a good life, and do you desire to see good days? Near the end of his life in 547 AD, Benedict of Nursia …

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Unpacking the Boxes: a small tribute to Donald Hall, (1928-2018)

By Tracy Rittmueller | June 25, 2018

Yesterday, when I read in the Concord Monitor that one of the last major American poets of his generation, Donald Hall, died at his home at the age of 89, I felt sad that I had neglected to write to him one more time. I never told him how much his example of the good life, the writing life, had shaped my own life. He would have liked to have heard that, I think. I didn’t know Donald Hall, but I knew his writing well, and I knew the story of his life through his books. In 1987, I addressed …

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Judith Valente–poet, journalist, and Benedictine oblate–on "How To Live"

By Tracy Rittmueller | April 23, 2018

At the intersection of reading and writing, in the spaces where listening, silence, prayer, and wonder happen–there is poetry. There, too, is where I find support for living as a Benedictine. Some months ago I decided that my blog will focus on “Reading, Writing, and the Benedictine way of life.” Since then, I’ve been pondering what I want to write about the way I live now. Judith Valente has made it easy for me. Her recently published How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community is a book I would like to …

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The destruction of apathy: how Emma Gonzalez mobilized the tools of poetry to empower the #NeverAgain movement

By Tracy Rittmueller | April 14, 2018

On March 26, 2018, at the ‘March for Our Lives’ demonstration in Washington D.C., one of the march’s organizers, Emma Gonzalez, took the stage to speak against the insane notion that nothing can be done to protect us and our children from gun violence.  People were shaken out of apathy and the #NeverAgain movement, organized by Stoneman Douglas teens, gained momentum.  Miami New Times calls the #NeverAgain movement “unprecedented gun-control activism.” Of course, there’s a whole lot more to the #NeverAgain movement than Emma Gonzalez’s speech. A month before the March For Our Lives, George and Amal Clooney, Oprah, and …

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This is not spring and this is not a poem

By Tracy Rittmueller | April 10, 2018

April 10, 2018. Snow everywhere and it’s miserably frigid. The calendar says spring arrived twenty one days ago but this is not spring. So here’s a poem for questioning how things ought to be in light of how things are and vice versa. Christine Klocek-Lim’s nuanced poem, “This is Not a Poem,” is an ars poetica — a meditation on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem.  “This is not a poem,” the title insists with Socratic irony. The poet’s feigned ignorance adds satire to the poem. Dickens and other writers used this technique to point out injustices, to make …

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12 Places to Put Poetry for National Poetry Month

By Tracy Rittmueller | April 4, 2018

For impatient people: Because poetry has made me less self-absorbed and more empathetic, you can skip my explanation of why poetry is important enough to deserve a national month celebrating it, and jump straight to the 12 places to put poetry list. Just click here . So here’s the story about why poetry is so important that we have a national poetry month to honor it: My grandparents hated pizza. They were a quiet pair of baby-cuddlers, who stitched crewel work pillows (yes, both of them), and ran errands, all of their lives, for elderly parents, aunts, uncles, and overworked parents, always …

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12 Places to Put Poetry for National Poetry Month

By Tracy Rittmueller | April 4, 2018

For impatient people: Because poetry has made me less self-absorbed and more empathetic, you can skip my explanation of why poetry is important enough to deserve a national month celebrating it, and jump straight to the 12 places to put poetry list. Just click here . So here’s the story about why poetry is so important that we have a national poetry month to honor it: My grandparents hated pizza. They were a quiet pair of baby-cuddlers, who stitched crewel work pillows (yes, both of them), and ran errands, all of their lives, for elderly parents, aunts, uncles, and overworked parents, always …

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