When the term “reads of the month” is mentioned, most of the readers of this blog may think of books. However, for October’s “Read of the Month”, I decided to go for something a little different: a poem. A prose-poem, to be exact. Prose-poem is essentially prose with poetic traits. It may seem like prose, yet it retains the qualities common to poetry, such as metaphors, symbolism, rhyme, repetition, etc. You will often find this form in poems by Pablo Neruda and Kahlil Gibran, among other renowned poets.

The prose poem that I would like to talk about is one of the first poems that I read many years ago and without a doubt the one poem that made me more interested in the art of poetry and spoken word. It is titled “Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”) by American writer Max Ehrmann, originally written in 1927. I quite literally fell in love with this poem on the first read, and you can probably see why once you read it below.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

As you can probably tell, Desiderata has a calm and reassuring feeling to it. It speaks in a respectful and conscientious manner, giving you instructions and advice without being preachy and condescending. It is also straightforward and uses simple language, making it easy to understand even for the layman. It is full of wise advice great for those moments of quiet reflections that we so often need, I had the poem printed out and hung on the walls of my office cubicle and bedroom so that I can read it from time to time.

I have to admit that before I came across this poem, I saw poetry as something “complex” and somewhat “high-brow”, only written and understandable by the upper-class in the literary world (if there is such a thing). In other words, I initially found poetry highly intimidating. Prose poem, and Desiderata in particular, became what I dubbed as a “gentle” entry or introduction to poetry for me. I honestly did not think of it as a poem at first due to how it is written. I was intrigued when I discovered that it is actually a poem, and this led me to research more about poetry and eventually realized that poetry comes in many forms, lengths, and styles. In a way, Desiderata has changed the way I think about poetry.

And of course, the library has many resources on poetry that are suitable for beginners and seasoned poetry readers alike. There are a lot of free online resources as well, such as poets.org and Poetry Foundation. You can also sign up for the poem-a-day mailing list by poets.org to have a poem delivered to your inbox every day!

Happy reading!

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.