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“I don’t think I can do this,” I told my friend Mary.*

The two of us were meeting on Zoom to discuss a collaborative project. Before digging into business, we were checking in with each other, as friends do.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how emotionally and physically drained I was. How weepy. How disconcerted by worry.

“I just can’t,” I said.

As it happened, Mary was struggling a bit, too. So we set aside our agenda.

Over the next hour, we discussed what was weighing us down. Then we began to read poems to each other.

The sharing of those poems gradually opened in me a more expansive, light-filled heart-space.

By the time our visit concluded, Mary and I were both laughing. Nothing in the world had changed . . . except our own spirits.

That was enough.


My friend Pat called on the phone. She was having a tough time. Her landlord was refusing to do maintenance on her tiny apartment. Her personal budget was being squeezed to the limit. Her aging mother was facing serious health challenges. Her dysfunctional family was trying to meet those challenges with as much love as they could muster . . .

“You need to hear a poem,” I said, when Pat finally came up for air.

“I would love that,” she said.

I read her one poem, then another.

The tone of our interaction turned. Toward resilience. Toward hope.


Seated across the table, my friend Paul read me a poem that he’d recently written.

Once he finished, I asked if I could read the poem back to him.

His eyebrows shot up.

“Why?” he said.

I smiled but didn’t answer. I held out my hand for the page.

Reaching the poem’s end, I looked over at Paul. His eyes were wells of tears.

“I don’t think anybody has ever read me my own work before,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it makes me emotional. Thank you.”


All these episodes happened within a single week.

They reminded me, once again, that poetry matters—especially when read aloud.

The words of a poem being read aloud at the right moment can be deeply meaningful. Their musicality, comforting . . . even uplifting.

Yet what might matter most may not be the actual poem that is read, but the simple fact that someone would bother giving voice to it as an expression of care.

A poem read aloud can make all the difference.

Think now: Who in your life, at this moment, might benefit from hearing a poem read aloud by you?

* all names have been changed

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash



Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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