woman dances before surgery (or what poetry means to me)

a couple of weeks ago, i found this video via an article as it made the rounds on facebook: the huffington post’sthis woman was about to go in for surgery. what she did moments before was awesome.” it’s youtube title is “deb’s OR flash mob.” if you haven’t watched it, you must. probably even more than once. go ahead:

much like everyone else, i initially gravitated toward it in total admiration for the spunk and spirit deborah (the patient) shows and for the openness of the amazing group of people who joined her in the dance. right away i think we all wished we could face fear with such great style.

but when i came back to the video today (i file things like this away in evernote: it really does help me remember everything), i realized it represents something else, as well: what poetry means to me. the best poems turn our fears and failures and challenges and horrors into something beautiful. sometimes, they’re inspiring or hopeful (like this video and its story). but even if they’re not, they often give us a flicker of something that resembles community — a fellowship of shared experience. (btw: what are your favorite poems that do this? i’m thinking of making a list!)

do not worry: i’m not talking about pollyanna poetry or greeting card verse. i just mean poetry transforms our experience, and it transforms us. deborah’s dance transformed that entire operating room… and all of us who’ve witnessed it. it takes on life beyond its four walls.

a week ago, those of us studying at ashland university lost a new, but very dear friend and poet. our lively anna.

anna was battling cancer when she started working on her MFA this summer. in addition to time with her family and loved ones, she chose to spend time writing poetry, and she chose to write poetry in community. i like to think that for anna, the poetry and our MFA community was her flash mob OR dance. and we were blessed to be with her for a brief time, shakin’ what all our mamas gave us. and her broad smile spreads to us. and her big spirit infects us. and we keep dancing… i mean: we write. we hum a tune as we remember. we bob our heads. we write on.

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