Poems of Awakening, an anthology of poetry compiled and edited by yoga teacher Betsy Small, is a collection of poems from around the world. The intention behind this collection is to support the teaching of yogic principles through poems, and after reading them and sharing them with my students I believe that the intention is well met.
The 129 poems in the collection are drawn from poets affiliated with all the major world religions as well as poets with no discernible affiliation. Small makes no distinctions about the background of the poets or poems. It seems that her only concern in the inclusion of a poem is that it convey the spirit of the section in which it is included.
The book is split into seven sections with the overall theme of the collection being inspiration for the various kinds of awakenings that you might experience in your yoga practice. These awakenings can range from an awareness of how you feel from one minute to the next to an awareness of your connection to the universe.
The poems come from an eclectic combination of poets, some of which Iím already familiar with and some of which I had yet to learn of. Some of the poets include Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, e.e. cummings, Hafiz and Jalal ad-Din Rumi. In reading this anthology I have happily been introduced to the works of Ziyong, Hsu Yun, Derek Walcott, Judith Barrington and many others.
The wide variety of poets is one aspect that I really enjoy about this book. In a sense, Small has created a primer that can be used to begin exploring even more poetry. In the back of the book are several indexes. There is an index of poets that includes the years they were born and died as well as their location. There is also included a list of recommended anthologies. These two lists alone are worth the price of the book simply for the research value.
Beyond all of this, simply reading the anthology is such a pleasure. I donít make it a habit to read books of poetry from beginning to end, yet this one flowed easily from one poem to the next. Because it is relatively small collection I was able to read it in one sitting. Since then I have been going back to find specific poems to read in my own yoga classes. There is no way to describe just how wonderful it feels to begin and end a class with what I call ďthat perfect poemĒ which completely describes what Iím attempting to convey to my students. This book has found a permanent home in my yoga bag and has become a regular feature in my classes.
Ultimately Poems of Awakening can be used many different ways as a resource for your yoga practice. Whether taking a poem to meditate on, teaching on a poem to support the principle youíre focusing on or simply reading the poems and contemplating them as you practice, this book could very well become a well-worn companion and treasure in your yoga library.
*Gardner Publicity provided a copy of Poems of Awakening to me free of charge.
Poems of Awakening