Poetry: The Language of the Spirit

In everyday conversation, and in most situations requiring a verbal response, we take for granted that the simple expression of words in the appropriate order will suffice to communicate the basic information that will satisfy the immediate question at hand. If someone asks you what kind of day you are having, your first inclination is probably not to speak in rhyming couplets.

On the other hand, when you are deeply saddened by the departure of someone you love, or wish to express a complex notion or describe a profound experience, you may feel particularly strong emotions or wish to express thoughts that are especially important or moving, that the full expression of them simply cannot be accomplished in everyday conversation.

William Wordsworth addressed this idea in this excerpt from “Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey…July 13, 1798”

…For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of thought,
And rolls through all things.

Wordsworth confirms for us, in the most eloquent way, that our human lives are “interfused” with a “motion and spirit” that impels us through the many difficult and joyful moments of our lives, and can be found in ALL things, regardless of how we view them or struggle with them.

Struggling with the departure of someone dear some years ago, the poetic expression of the sonnet attempted to express the difficulty:

In Dreams of What Could Be

By John J. Hyland, III

Longing for you has left a heavy mark,
I’ve dragged my heart and mind through thorns and vines.
Most every heartening thought grows dark,
And halts attempts to speak with hopeful lines.

And yet the hope for love could live again,
Your considered words could cancel all doubt,
Deepened over the years of turmoil when
In dark despair, the light of hope went out.

A glimmer of that special light still burns,
Like candles beckon in windows at night.
Every hope in darkness lost still earns
A chance to be the harbinger of light.

Until the dawn of hope appears for me,
I’ll search for you in dreams of what could be.

© 2000 by JJHIII

From the Cummings Study Guide:

A sonnet is a 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and meter (usually iambic pentameter). This poetry format–which forces the poet to wrap his thoughts in a small, neat package–originated in Sicily, Italy, in the 13th Century with the sonnetto (meaning little song), which could be read or sung to the accompaniment of a lute. When English poets began writing poems in imitation of these Italian poems, they called them sonnets, a term coined from sonnetto. Frequently, the theme of a sonnet was love, or a theme related to love.”


If we can see the world of possibility in poetry, if we can realize a point of view through poetry that we never considered before, then our own poetry, the expression that begs to be released from within us, can attain a level we never imagined it could.

John H.

4 thoughts on “Poetry: The Language of the Spirit

  1. Thank you, Maggie, for sharing a part of yourself with me. It is very reassuring to know that a beautiful young woman in the 21st century not only writes poetry, but also does so in the interest of expressing her inner life in the way that you do. You could be a movie star or a supermodel, but instead, you reach into the depths of your being, and paint your world in words, and in a way that touches the lives of others.

    Your life is clearly “interfused” with a “motion and a spirit,” and I sense the beauty of your spirit in your words. You have a gift. And I feel fortunate to be someone connected to it.

    Regards….John H.

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