Last night my good friend Michael shared his words and his heart with about 40 people at a poetry reading introducing his second book of poetry, Sit With Me A While Longer. Though he has written for quite some time, when his partner was diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s, writing became a way for him to process and problem-solve the new complexities, emotions, and intricacies of his and his partner’s lives. Last December, his partner of 39 years was placed in a care facility.
Michael’s words were poignant and honest, sometimes devastatingly so, especially because of our love for Michael and Greg, as well as our intimate knowledge of this journey Michael and Greg have been on for the last decade.
I wondered while sitting in the hospitality suite of the condo building where the reading took place if sharing the emotional pain and the occasional triumph over that pain helps heal wounds more readily? Does poetry become a palliative for the rendings of the soul? For those outside of the circle of Michael and Gregory’s life, can they truly understand, through Michael’s words, the depths of the frustration and occasional joy this disease brings — this menage a trois, Alzheimer’s as the third partner, as Michael described it?
The Greek verb ποιεω [poiéo (= I make or create)] is the origin for the word poet. ποιημα [poíema (= the thing created)] is the origin for the word poem. Poetry, then, is the act of creation and the result of that creation is the poem. Poetry is the process, the doing, the experiencing. The poem is created anew each time it is read, each time it is spoken. The energy and response in a room is an essential part of the experience of poetry. There is even, perhaps, a sense of community that is built around the words– the group having all vicariously experienced the creation of the poem. When we all hear the poem together, we create.
I have great gratitude for those in my life who are poets and who have let me be part of the experience of creation. I have great gratitude for friends who have the unmitigated temerity to live life so richly and fully and openly. I have great gratitude for those who have the courage to push the boundaries of dis-ease and make it into an opportunity for compassion, for love, for enlightenment. Thank you, Michael and Greg, for this gift.