In violent times

Art can bring together those parts of us which exist in dread and those which have the surviving sense of a possible happiness, collectivity, community, a loss of isolation,” wrote the American poet Adrienne Rich. Her insight helps me see why I’ve turned so often to the arts since September 11. I’ve sat on the couch meditating with a CD of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” I’ve sat on a museum bench meditating with Robert Motherwell’s La Danse. And I’ve sat in parks, in restaurant corners and at home, meditating with poems like Adam Zagajewski’s “The Greenhouse.”

Of all the arts, poetry is the most portable. I can carry a poem in my pocket, to turn to on lunch break or in a traffic jam. I can even memorize parts of it, to mull over throughout the day, as in the ancient practice of praying with scripture known as lectio divina.


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