Poetry Gathering Reflection - August 2023 - Niamh Pattwell

God Says Yes To Me - by Kaylin Haught

The bi-monthly Poetry Gathering had piqued my interest for awhile. I was curious to see how Focusing and poetry would pair. After just two sessions, I am happy to report that they are a beautiful combination! It’s an online event to which Marie McGuigan and Elaine Goggin, our hosts, warmly welcome everyone. Next, they explain how the session works, and read through a set of simple guidelines. Most helpfully, they offer a short demonstration on how to focus with poetry, so that newcomers quickly feel at home and everyone else can become attuned. Then, armed with the two poems (shared in the week before we meet) we are sent off, in pairs, into our breakout rooms.

Taking it in turn to focus on the poem of one’s choice, presence, sharing and insight soon flow between us. I love having the poem read to me by my focusing partner, it lifts the words from the page. I also love being in contact with another person’s response. It is curious to see how words in the poem can catch and give shape to whatever is alive in us. On both occasions, I was left in wonder at the variation in our individual responses.

Last month, both of us chose the same poem ‘God says yes to me’ by Kaylin Haught and, even then, our responses were different. My companion wondered what the questions might be she would ask God, what might replace the question of the opening line

‘I asked God if it was ok to be melodramatic?’

and came in touch with some present-moment concerns. The third question -

"I asked if it was ok to wear nail polish 
or not to wear nail polish’

brought me to that part that is fretful and anxious, captured in the see-saw movement and repetitive pattern of the question. We both sensed and welcomed the energy and assurance offered in the ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’ of the final line. On that occasion too, we had some time to spare, so we turned to the second poem, ‘My Box’ by Gillian Clarke. I was surprised by the way in which my initial resistance to that poem had shifted, softened by our encounter with, what I now called, ‘The Yes Poem’.

I think Marie captured the whole experience well with her observation on how everyone was so much more smiley on their return to the main group. I also love these last few minutes where we catch a glimpse of how the experience was for everyone. I have worked with poetry in the classroom for many years and, of course, there is truth in the old saying that you never know something until you teach it. However, I can now say that Focusing also brings an engagement with the words that endures. For someone getting used to meeting in a group in a Focusing way, the Poetry Gathering is a safe space for gentle Focusing encounters with people who might otherwise be strangers.


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