Use Poetry as a Speed Train

Mauri Ingram, president and CEO of Whatcom Community Foundation

This particular poem speaks to both the human condition and the role of community philanthropy. It reminds us that we do what we can to tend, remain aware of our ever changing environment and grasp at control. In community philanthropy, we are accountable and yet in control of virtually nothing (if we are doing our work well). It also speaks to the tension between urban and rural: the constant tug and the differential in their relative gravities. I’ve used spoken word most often as a speed train to help group members to be fully present. My first exposure to the practice was at a conference session on arts and culture. In that case, it also reminded the group of the essence of why we gathered. On a personal level, poetry quiets my mind and opens up my mind to differing points of view. It’s a stretching exercise for my brain.

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
Tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser