Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2009
This book should be required reading in high schools or colleges before the classics are forced down our throats. It really opens up your mind to understand the power of poetry to heal and transform your mind and your life. Kim writes from a deep place of knowing after having lived and learned the lessons she is imparting in the book. While reading it, I was inspired to start memorizing poems that touched me, and finding more of them. What totally surprised me was how easy it was to memorize them after taking Kim's advice to heart. I had always felt that I was no good at memorizing anything. I even bought a huge book of poems that came with 3 cd's of poets reading their own work; it really is so much easier to get the magic of poetry when you hear it spoken. "Saved by a Poem" has helped to start a new cycle of transformation in my life; it has opened me up to looking at things from new and exciting angles. Thank you Kim!
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2009
Kim Rosen suggests that poems are prayers--of joy, pain, love, wonder, wisdom--and to recite a poem from memory is food for the spirit. I bought the book last week and have begun to take poems to heart by memory and it has been, truly, a transformative experience. Kim suggests that a poem that speaks to you, when taken to heart, will continue to reveal truths over time...and my short experience with this process makes me realize I might have healed more quickly in difficult times if I had opened myself up to poetry in the past. Too often I have felt I couldn't relate to poetry and Kim's reflections make me wonder whether I erred on the side of analytical interpretation rather than acceptance--certainly hearing a poem spoken out loud makes a huge difference. She shares her own personal stories of how poems have shaped her life, provided insight at crucial moments, and turned her from deep depression. A whole chapter on practices on how to take a poem to heart is helpful. The CD is a gift beyond words--poems spoken by poets who then share what the poem means to them, with the lovely music of Jamie Sieber's cello in the background. I recommend this book wholeheartedly with great joy...and hope to gather a circle of friends to share poems with each other--to celebrate, to ponder, to connect closer to each other--we are even considering a conference via Skype from around the world. What a wonderful gift for yourself or a friend.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
Kim Rosen's book was truly transformative. For people who are just beginning to work with poems, either writing them or reading them, this book is a must read. It is not a book on crafting poems, but the reader will learn about as much in that area as in a book that deals with craft. The reader will mostly learn about the critical importance of reading poetry out loud. The "cure" is in reading out loud and Ms. Rosen gives very clear insight into the research behind the findings about reading aloud.

Reading this book has given this reader new motivation into editing and revising her own poetry to go along with some of the suggestions from Ms. Rosen. My poetry may have been saved by this book.

Kudos to Kim Rosen.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2009
I had the pleasure of seeing Kim Rosen in person when she told her personal story and read one of her favorite poems to music. I really can't describe how moving the event was for me and, if you can't attend one of her local events, the CD that comes with this book has a similar impact. I have never heard the reading of poetry set to background music - what a delicious experience!

The book is written beautifully, and the reader wants to savor each sentence with its nuance of meaning and artful creation. The experience of reading the book is very similar to the magic that happens when one reads their favorite poetry - which is, of course, what this book is all about.

We deeply need the transforming magic that this book provides as we read Kim's story and how spoken words, through reading poetry outloud, is transformative in many communities and homes thoughout the world. I have been deeply touched by her work and invite you to do the same. It is intensely nourishing to the soul and is a welcome tonic in the face of one's daily challenges.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2010
Kim Rosen is a poet. She connects with poetry by speaking poems aloud and learning them by heart. She asserts that learning poems by heart changes you biologically--with the poem's rhythm and breath. Rosen states "Dare to not understand, to lose your grip on making sense of the words. Let the images, like musical notes, pour over you."

Rosen's book merges "the power of the word with the language of the soul." She describes "soul" as the word "to stand for all that lives in us beyond the socialized, survival-oriented self. I ask it to include the many realms of the 'inner' world: the psychological self with its memories, wounds, imagining, and feeling; the oceanic movements of the emotions; the archetypal themes, forces, and elements of the collective unconscious that we share with all humanity; and the Self that is pure, formless, awake, eternal presence."

In Saved by a Poem, Rosen writes of "learning by heart" as "a partnership, not a conquest" as it is about "entering into a relationship with a poem." She approaches memory through what she calls "the Four Chambers of Memory," each chamber requiring a deeper commitment. You can look at a poem and say the lines while you're stopped in traffic, as you're falling asleep or before getting out of bed, or remember lines of it as you're taking a walk in nature. "The most important practice for rooting your poem in the Third Chamber is speaking it to other people," Rosen says.

Rosen describes the Fourth Chamber as when "the poem starts singing to you." At this point, you have been transformed by the poem and can share it with others. Rosen deals with forgetting too; she calls it "the gift of forgetting." There's a shyness, a vulnerability, a silence, an undefended exposure (if this happens in public), all of which become the gifts in those moments of communion and truth.

Each chapter offers Rosen's personal story and her relationship to poetry learned by heart and includes the medicine of poetry, choosing a poem, the anatomy of a poem, and the undressing your voice. In most cases the poems chosen by Rosen reflect the themes of the chapters. At the end of the book, Rosen shares several practices help to deepen a reader's poetry experiences. She also includes a list of her fifty favorite poems so you can get started learning poems by heart.

Rosen brings her training, many gifts and a unique approach to her soulful work. Saved by a Poem brings poetry into our everyday experience, offering another way to connect to one another. Perhaps the greatest gifts of developing a relationship with a poem are to hear your own voice, to connect to a poem, and, as Rosen expresses, "allowing the poem to carry you into yourself, evoking feelings, reflections, and new experiences of the world."

The book comes with a CD of poems that are recited by well-known spiritual teachers; among them are Cheryl Richardson, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Geneen Roth, Joan Borysenko and Andrew Harvey. They also share what the particular poem means to them. The music of Jami Sieber adds another layer to the poetry recited by Rosen and other poets including the late Stanley Kunitz.

Try reading a poem aloud. Share it with someone else. "As you speak the words aloud, you can change the world around you with poetry's medicine--dissolving lines of separation, fostering intimacy and truthfulness, and waking the heart."

Saved by a Poem is a book for writers, teachers, hospice volunteers and anyone wanting that reconnection to self.

by Mary Ann Moore
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2010
A creative writing teacher I know just decided to use Saved by a Poem with her class. Everyone who teaches people to write poetry needs to do this! If we don't know how powerful poetry can be, how can we write powerful poetry?? And the point Kim Rosen makes so well is that in order to know how powerful poetry can be, we need to bring it alive in our bodies, to experience it with our whole selves. Everyone who teaches poetry written by others needs to read this book and use its practices! After your students have brought a poem fully alive for themselves and others, they will have something meaningful to say about that poem, in class discussion or in a paper. And they will have discovered a way to open themselves to the emotional and spiritual experience of others that will serve them for the rest of their lives. I have been helping students recover from a purely left-brained approach to poetry for thirty years, and Kim has made the case for an approach that thoroughly integrates right and left brain in such a persuasive, accessible, interesting way that I found myself crying for joy again and again. And the stories she tells! The story of the way a spoken poem created a bond between Kim and the girls in a Vday safehouse in the Rift Valley in Kenya is priceless, worth buying the book for in itself. Read, enjoy, use!
Silvine Farnell, Ph.D.
[...]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2009
This book is amazing! The stories of redemption through poetry are so moving and inspiring. I am anxious to start learning poems by heart to see how they can enrich my life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2010
Love and appreciation for poetry bloomed when reading this book.
The author's warmth and sensitivity re-opened my own.
Am deeply grateful.
Artemas Yaffe
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2010
I heard the author on a radio show and was inspired to order this book. OMG! I am reconnecting to the kid in me who loved Shakespear's sonnets. I am finally realizing that loving and learning poetry is a beautiful thing and not some nerdy, weird thing.

The flow of the book is beautiful. Easy to read and hard to put down. I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever had just one poem touch her life.

Enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2013
Do you kind of like poetry? Do you despise poetry with all your being? Either way, I urge you to check out this unique new book by Kim Rosen.

I'm still reading and savoring the book on my Kindle. [The book-book comes with a CD, and the ebook reputedly also includes audio downloads(?) which I need to figure out how to access. This audio component features the author and others sharing favorite poems.]

Not your preferred way to spend a Saturday night? I guess you must have missed that great Saturday-night show on HBO with Russell Simmons and Spike Lee which grew out of the Brooklyn poetry slams. (I absolutely must interject here that the poetry slam concept actually originated in my home town, Chicago -- which has also been home to the Poetry Foundation since 1912.)

Rosen says we place way too much emphasis on trying to understand poetry, analyzing it to death. She maintains that poetry truly comes alive in the body and thus in the soul. The idea is to find a poem that speaks to you deeply and take it into yourself, make it part of your breathing and blood-flow and innards -- your dancing, your journey, your quest for healing. She says that poetry can heal us. She won't get any argument from me. But don't worry that her suggestions have anything to do with the old stuff, the rote memorization we may have been assigned in elementary school. She counsels a whole other way of getting into a poem and letting it into you, and she predicts that it will change you. I can personally attest to the truth of that assertion.

Other cultures know all this already -- way better than we do out here in the ad-glutted, mall-ridden, frenetically monetized U.S. of A. I don't have a viable theory as to why we are so conflicted about poetry, why some of us are positively repulsed by it and plenty of us never think about it or go near it if we can help it.

By way of contrast, Rosen recounts that in 2006, in the heart of Baghdad and in the midst of frightening clashes and terrifying explosions, a thousand people -- both Sunni and Shiite -- came together in a gigantic tent to share poetry, to dance, and to weep together. Soldiers from both militias ended up joining in and volunteering to guard the premises. The first such gathering was followed by many others. Poetry broke down the barriers between the factions and became a powerful force for peace. It satisfied some fierce craving people may not even have known they had -- some urgent need that seems increasingly endemic to all of this earth, to all of humanity, even if some of us do not yet realize just what it is we are thirsting for down here in the depths of ourselves.

Also, according to Rosen, "in many parts of Latin America, Ireland, and the Middle East . . . it is not unusual for spoken poetry to be heard as part of everyday conversations." According to her students from Ireland, people in that land routinely share poetry by W.B. Yeats or Dylan Thomas well into the night at the neighborhood pub. She also notes that in Iran, poets are national heroes -- and that in Israel, fans line up in the bookstores of Tel Aviv for a new volume of poetry the way they do here for a best-selling vampire novel. In the Middle East there is one TV channel devoted exclusively to poetry -- inspired by the most popular prime-time program in the region, a kind of poetry recitation contest along the lines of "American Idol" which has more viewers than news or sports. Closer to home, some 90 miles off the coast of Florida, Cubans spray-paint walls with the lyrics of Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

It is difficult to summarize this wonderful book in a brief review, or to distill its major points. The author has spent years studying and teaching poetry as a pathway to spiritual healing, and she has so very much to say on the subject. She shares her own experiences of darkness and despair, relating how bringing poetry alive within herself brought everything else into alignment -- how a true encounter with poetry, a long love affair with a special poem, can strip a human being down to her authentic self; can nudge, seduce, or wrench her from her abyss of suffering and stuckness: instilling in her or restoring to her a sense of oneness with everyone else and with all creation; reshaping her into a formidable force for mentoring others and repairing the earth.

Rosen provides clear guidelines for doing this -- for adopting a poem and taking it to heart, living with it and nurturing it and letting it sing in your blood and bones. These are really very practical and comprehensible instructions, although I realize that in my enthusiasm, I may sound rather mystical or oody-doody about the whole thing. This path is really not some esoteric byway of civilization. It is a road well-traveled by millions of our forbears and contemporaries, surprising as this may seem. One culture after another has cherished poetry profoundly, regarding it as a vehicle of ecstatic celebration or quiet consolation; has found it medicinal, therapeutic, transformative. Even prehistorically, some scientists postulate, Neanderthal peoples first spoke to one another not in prose, but in a language which resembled a kind of poem, or poem-song.

As one might expect, the author scatters various poems throughout the book, including some of my own all-time favorites. If any specific quotation may conceivably deliver her message "in a nutshell," it is these lines from the physician-poet William Carlos Williams:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably
every day for lack
of what is found there.
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