Emptying Our Pockets and Sharing Favorite Poems - Women's Foundation California

Last month, the Women’s Foundation of California did something we’ve never done before. We dedicated a week to learning and reflection. During this time, we wrote, we sang, we did an improvisation class, we reviewed our strategic plan, learned about making an ask for a donation, and practiced being an effective speaker. Oh, yes, and every morning we started off with a poem. The poems reverberated throughout our days and enriched our conversations. Hard to believe that April, and National Poetry Month is almost over. However, in honor of poetry’s impact on our work and inspired by Poem in a Pocket Day (April 26), some of us took a few minutes to share our favorite poems and what we love about them. We welcome hearing from you what your favorite poem is, and why you love it. Enjoy!

I love this poem because it reminds me of childhood and curiosity.  It reminds me of magic and make believe and all that is possible in this world.  – Alison Sirkus Brody, Program Officer


If you are a dreamer, come in

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er. a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in!

Come in!

shel silverstein


My memories of analyzing poetry in school were of a very cerebral focus—the suggestion is that “real” poetry is meant to be opaque, codified—an intellectual pursuit. This kind of heavy focus tends to make poetry more of a struggle than the joy it can be. I love this poem because it reminds you how visceral, celebratory and accessible poetry can be. Revel in it! – Lynn Sagramoso, Development Officer

How to Eat A Poem

Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that

may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

Eve Merriam


One thing that life has taught me is that the questions, even the hard ones that make me feel unhappy, are what propel my life forward.  Listening to people’s answers to my questions and the answers from my own heart is what makes life most interesting.  There is a way that living the questions puts me in the present.  These are the reasons I love this poem from Rilke. – Judy Patrick, CEO & President

Love the Questions

I want to beg you . . .  dear sir, to have patience
With everything unresolved in your heart
And try to love the questions themselves
As if they were locked rooms
Or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers,
Which could not be given you now,
Because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.

Live the questions now!
Perhaps Then,
Someday far in the future,
You will gradually,
Without ever noticing it,
Live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet


I don’t know if this is really a poem, but I love it. There’s a colorful line drawing of a woman dancing under a bright yellow sun, with these words underneath. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought that’s me. I felt seen. –  Cathy Schreiber, Vice President of Development & Finance


She said she usually cried at least once each day
Not because she was sad
But because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.

Brian Andreas, Storypeople


I am often too restless to just sit still and meditate. My mind races and roars. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Eknath Easwaran’s passage meditation. You memorize an inspiring poem and then sit quietly, repeating the poem over and over. I have found that even when I’m not sitting still, intentionally meditating, bits of the passages that I have memorized will come to me, calm me and help me to speak thoughtfully in difficult situations. This passage by Lao Tzu is one of my favorites because it encourages me to relax in the midst of great change. To feel the peace within that is a wellspring for all possibilities and great actions. – Sande Smith, Director of Communications

Holding to the Constant

Break into the peace within,
Hold attention in stillness,
And in the world outside
You will ably master the ten thousand things.  

All things rise and flourish
Then go back to their roots.
Seeing this return brings true rest,
Where you discover who you really are.
Knowing who you are, you will find the constant.
Those who lack harmony with the constant court danger,
But those who have it gain new vision.  

They act with compassion;
within themselves, they can find room for everything.
Having room, they rule themselves and lead others wisely.
Being wise, they live in accordance with the nature of things.
Emptied of self and one with nature,
They become filled with the Tao.
The Tao endures forever.
For those who have attained harmony with the Tao will never lose it,
Even if their bodies die.

Lao Tzu, translated by Eknath Easwaran in God Makes the Rivers To Flow: An Anthology of the World’s Sacred Poetry & Prose

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