Use Poetry to Shift Your Perspective

Kevin Walker, president and CEO of Northwest Area Foundation

Here are two poems that help me shift my perspective on challenges in healthy ways. The first, a tiny poem by A.R. Ammons that hangs beside my desk, reminds me not to take myself or our work too seriously. The second is a spectacular little piece by the Australian poet, Les Murray. It reminds me to think big in space and time, but I love the way it circles back in the end (as Murray always does) to people, and our responsibility to one another.


The burdens of the world
on my back
lighten the world
not a whit while
removing them greatly
reduces my specific

—A.R. Ammons

Ernest Hemingway and the Latest Quake

In fact the Earth never stops moving.

Northbound in our millimetric shoving
we heap rainy Papua ahead of us
with tremor and fumerole and shear
but: no life without this under-ruckus.

The armoured shell of Venus doesn’t move.
She is trapped in her static of hell.
The heat of her inner weight feeds enormous
volcanoes in that gold atmosphere

which her steam oceans boil above.
Venus has never known love:
that was a European error.
Heat that would prevent us gets expressed

as continent-tiles being stressed and rifted.
These make Earth the planet for lovers.
If coral edging under icy covers
or, too evolutionary slow

for human histories to observe it, a low
coastline faulting up to a tree-line
blur landscape in rare jolts of travel
that squash collapsing masonry with blood

then frantic thousands pay for all of us.

Les Murray