I am Barry Hess

Discomfiture of Thought

A friend of mine has a genius habit that I could not help but copy. He starts every morning with five or ten minutes of poetry reading. It’s not that he loves poetry, though he’s learning to like it. It’s more that the written word of poetry is very different from prose and it disrupts the internal monologue going on in his head.

What a great idea! It immediately clicked with me as something worth trying to develop a habit around. I’ve tried meditation and other things to train and calm my mind, but for whatever reason those habits have never had a strong impact on my daily moods. Reading poetry sounded to me like an activity, if not the same as meditation, of a quality that might take my mind in similar directions.

For someone who doesn’t have a habit of reading poetry, I actually have a reasonable collection of poetry books. On top of exercising the word processing of my mind, this exercise would hit another sweet spot for me. It causes me stress to have books or other media on a shelf, unconsumed. I was pretty sure that reading some of the books collecting dust on my shelf would make me feel better as each book is completed.

For the past month or so I’ve tried my best to keep up on this habit. I’m jumping between a few collections at the same time, but I did finally complete one: Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. This is not a recommendation in that I didn’t particularly understand anything I was reading. However, there was one bit I highlighted from “Snake-Light”:

When a snake swallows its prey, a row of inner teeth help walk the jaw over the prey’s body—walking like reading.

Walking over a word with the teeth of our mind.

To write is to be eaten. To read, to be full.

That’s vivid!