Poetry and prayer have always been positive tools in my life. When I’m having a tough day or going through a difficult season, it’s nice to be able to look to a handful of poems to feel a boost of happiness and inspiration.
It seems like there’s a poem for every topic and every feeling. I turn to poetry because it’s reassuring to read positive prose, and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone when I’m feeling down. Here are the four poems I turn to when I need to stay hopeful:
“Sunflowers” by Rupi Kaur
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives
Rupi Kaur is one of the most successful poets of this generation. Her two poetry books “Milk and Honey” and “The Sun and Her Flowers” both reached #1 on The New York Times bestsellers list. The beauty of Kaur’s work is that it’s simple, straightforward, and relatable. She’s become the pioneer of accessible poetry, also known as “instapoetry,” and she is especially empowering for women. Personally, reading her poetry always makes me feel supported and a little less alone.
“Sunflowers” is a reminder to live each day to the fullest. This poem helps me to stay hopeful because it illustrates that we have the power to choose to live our lives in a way that spreads light and positivity. I do this by making time for simple pleasures such as: reading for fun, writing for just me, drinking good coffee, communicating with the people I love, listening to records, and allowing myself to experience new things.
“I Sing the Body Electric” by Walt Whitman
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
If you need to contemplate life and do some soul-searching, Walt Whitman is a great choice.
This poem focuses on how powerful we truly are when it comes to our minds, bodies and souls.
It reminds me to focus on self-care, self-reflection and self-love. When an experience has left me feeling mentally or physically exhausted, Whitman reminds me of my inner strength and capabilities, while allowing me to stay focused on my intentions and have a positive mindset so that I can work towards my goals.
“Dream with Clam-Diggers” by Sylvia Plath
This dream budded bright with leaves around the edges,
Its clear air winnowed by angels; she was come
Back to her early sea-town home
Scathed, stained after tedious pilgrimages
No change met her:
Garden terrace, all summer
Tanged by melting tar
Sloped seaward to plunge in blue, fed by white fire,
he whole scene flared welcome to this roamer
Most people probably wouldn’t describe Sylvia Plath as a particularly uplifting poet. However, her poem “Dream with Clam-Diggers” is actually a poem that gives me hope.
In a way, this poem is a coming-of-age story for young adults. Plath is going back to her childhood home and is remembering the innocence and simplicity of being a kid. As I’ve grown up, I’ve tried to keep my youthful spirit intact even though things have changed. As a young adult, I try to engage my young spirit by laughing and having fun, giving myself breaks, allowing myself to go on adventures, trying new foods, seeing different surroundings, and treating myself when I’m doing a good job in the different areas of my life.
Although we can never fully go back to our childhoods, we can always cherish the memories and allow ourselves the time to focus on our wellbeing and fulfillment.
“Happy” by Lana Del Rey
you thought I was rich and I am but not how you think
I live in a Tudor house under the freeway in Mar Vista by the beach
and I listen to the rushing cars above
and I think about the last time you visited me
how the noise got louder and louder during rush hour
and it felt like the ocean was the sky
and I could touch the stars
and they all fell down around my head
and I became an angel
and you put me to bed
When you think of Lana Del Rey, poetry may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but the popular singer-songwriter is also a gifted poet. Del Rey has been sharing her poetry with the world on her social media accounts since last winter. She is set to self-publish a book of poetry, which will include her poem “Happy.”
Del Rey starts off each section of “Happy” with a variation of the line, “You joke that I’m rich and I am but not how you think.” It points out that people can be wealthy in lots of ways that don’t involve money. The things in my life that make me feel wealthy are my family, friendships, connecting with nature, spirituality, writing and reading, doing Pilates and Yoga, and being able to live in New York City — which is a constant source of inspiration.
“Happy” makes me feel just that. It gives me peaceful feelings of hope and encouragement. It’s a reminder that everything in my personal and professional life will work out the way it should, in the time it should. The poem references nature, and the power and beauty of our surroundings here on earth. This inspires me to stop and smell the flowers more often, which coincidentally works as just the motivation I need to keep fresh flowers and plants in my apartment!
Originally published on November 13, 2019.