I had the good fortune to be invited to read a few poems today at Sunday Assembly – Silicon Valley. I’d read at their invitation before, when they were still meeting in San Jose, and found them friendly and “ordinary” in the best possible way. Driving to the Masonic Lodge in Mountain View this morning, I reflected on how much easier this trip was for me to make, giving thanks for that simple joy.
Today’s theme was Hearts and Minds, and the guest speaker was Sheldon Helms. Mr. Helms read a lovely piece, originally intended for a Kindergarten graduation, all about the marvelous brain. He explained how the brain can be a metaphor for living and encouraged us all to “work well with others and be independent.” Wise words sweetly delivered.
For my part, I shared my favorite poem about hearts: “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti. There is much music in this poem to delight the heart, and some old-fashioned vocabulary to challenge the brain! Everyone gets “My heart is like a singing bird,” and “peacock with a hundred eyes,” but what the heck is “vair”?? (If you really want to know, Google it.)
I also shared a poem by Sylvia Plath, “Kindness.” Most people who have heard of Plath know the horror story of her mental illness and suicide, but I love her poems for their (sometimes) tender domestic flavor, expressed via the surrealism that many new mothers experience. For an event contemplating the heart and the mind, I wanted to honor mothers, including my own, who lived with mental illness and still loved well, made beauty, and left a legacy of joy and learning. I encourage you to read the poem in a real book at a real bookstore or in a real library, but if you can’t find one, here you go.
Thanks to Sunday Assembly for the lovely morning. You guys really know your karaoke.
(Check out my post from July 2015 when I read for Sunday Assembly during my tenure as Cupertino Poet Laureate.)