Ten Poems for Difficult Times is the seventh volume in acclaimed teacher and bestselling author Roger Housden’s popular Ten Poems Series.
Although poetry has been the primary vehicle through which Housden has communicated his spiritual vision to the world in the Introduction to this collection he candidly reveals his occasional doubt as to whether this conduit alone is sufficient in rolling back the tide of global and personal problems that challenge us daily.
In the end, he concludes that perhaps, more than anything else, poetry has at least the ability “…to start a fire in a person’s life.”
He qualifies this by adding, “…poetry can be dangerous : we may never be the same again after reading a poem that speaks to our own life directly….making a language of spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors, and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dreamed of.”
The Power of the Poem
In ‘Why Poetry for a Difficult Time?’ Housden considers in some depth the nature of what he sees as being a deeply transformative and transcending form of emotional and artistic expression.
It is poetry’s ‘humanizing nature’ that causes Housden to believe in its relevance in what freelance writer Maggie Smith describes in the first poem in this collection, titled ‘Good Bones’, as “a world that is at least fifty-percent terrible.”
The poem ‘Good Bones’ subsequently grasped the imagination of the internet and, following the shock of the 2016 US presidential election, became one of the three most downloaded poems from the American Academy of Poets website: proving that, in world that faces deepening crises, it seems that Housden’s assertion that poetry can support and comfort is a provable fact.
In addition to “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith, Ten Poems for Difficult Times includes an additional nine; along with accompanying commentaries by Housden. They are;
“The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass (b. 1947)
“The Quarrel” by Conrad Aiken (1889 – 1973)
“Cutting Loose” by William Stafford (1913 – 1993)
“Rain Light” by W. S. Merwin (b. 1927)
“How the Light Comes” by Jan Richardson (b. 1967)
“Now You Know the Worst” by Wendell Berry (b. 1934)
“A Brief for the Defense” by Jack Gilbert (1925 – 2012)
“It’s This Way” by Nazim Hikmet (1902 – 1963)
“Annunciation” by Marie Howe (b, 1950)
You do not have to be a devotee of poetry to enjoy this book. In fact you do not even need to understand the art-form, or its creators, for this is a book that examines the role and function of a number of poems within a spiritual and sociological context. For this reason alone Ten Poems for Difficult Times is worthy of anyone’s consideration.
The poems that Housden has selected for this collection have been drawn from a variety of sources and eras. When in a recent interview Housden was asked why he chose the ones that he did he explained that they were simply selected as examples of “..how to respond to difficult times.” In this regard he is correct for the poems stand on their own merit…however, what really makes this book standout are Housden’s fascinating and deeply insightful commentaries.
Some might argue that poetry should not be analysed and commented upon in any circumstances but to any critics I would steer then to the remarkably rich and deep analysis which Housden offers here: proving that whilst the World might be a dark place right now it is by facing up to and confronting the issues of our time we might, along with the power of poetry, disperse the fear that surrounds our lives.
In all regards Ten Poems for Difficult Times is a unique concept and a truly remarkable achievement. Grab a copy and give yourself a reason to face the world renewed in spirit and rejuvenated in heart.