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from this site:
The Power of Poetry – The Power of Dreams (by Allen Jesson)
When I look back at my life and see how it has changed in the last ten years, I for one, can see the power in poetry (and the enormous power that is released when someone follows their dreams). Ten years ago, I was the typically lost 35 year old. I had a young family to raise and was struggling to hold down a high powered job in the logistics industry. The pay was good and I worked very hard. I’d come home at night very weary but I still had trouble sleeping.
My addictions (to gambling, nicotine and alcohol) were increasing in magnitude and my soul was becoming less than happy with the direction my life was taking. Sure, I had the nice house, attractive wife and beautiful children, high paying job, good holidays and everything else that goes with a “successful” career. But I wasn’t happy. In truth, I was stressed to buggery and on Monday mornings my heart was heavy. Friday nights I felt better but the week had taken it’s toll and it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that I started to feel “normal” once again, but then the whole weekly cycle would start all over again…
And then things started to change, and all it took was one poem.
At school I found writing poetry remarkably easy. I was always quite creative growing up but I think most kids are. As you know, no one can make a living out of poetry :o) so that’s why I found a career in logistics. As a consequence I didn't write again for 20 years. At a management course we were encouraged to get in touch with our artistic side. That inspired "What If?" a few months later, the rest followed. For me, the absolute life changing power of poetry. For the record, this was it, a questioning look at those middle aged tremors that I was experiencing. It is called “What If?”
What If ?
What if my hair
Copyright Allen Jesson :) 1995-2004
A few months prior to writing this I’d put myself on a leadership course, where I had learned many skills to get me through my increasingly hectic days. They included time and stress management, negotiation, team building etc. Most importantly, in a revealing couple of days they got us to question ourselves, and I mean really question ourselves. Who are you? Where are you going? What are you really good at? What are your artistic leanings? It was that last question that reawakened the poet and artist within me. I remembered at school being quite handy at putting a rhyme or two together, but once the homework assignment had finished I quickly put the poetic pen down. In truth, I didn’t pick it up for another twenty years and What If? was the result. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised with the result but I had no idea I had taken the stopper out of the bottle, the bottle that contained over 1,000 poems (written in the next 10 years).
I showed that poem to a few friends and family and was surprised by the encouragement I received. So much so, that I started to get the pen out more often and probably had about 30 poems down by the end of that first year. They were generally about life. I’d pick up a few ideas and then start to create a story poem around it. But as most budding poets can experience (sooner or later) I found that I was running out of things to say. Call it writer’s block, call it lack of inspiration, call it what you will, it stopped me writing. It was at this time I was the least productive (at least in terms of writing) and I got on with my corporate life.
A couple of job changes led me to a quieter backwater, more money and less stress. I thought I’d got it made but there was still this restlessness within me, I guess my soul was still speaking (but I wasn’t listening). I’d still occasionally write but there was no real drive. No need. But I was still restless within.
In 1997 I started to recognize the power that the Internet was gathering and I thought this was something I should know about. So I purchased a book “How to build a web-site in less than 24 hours” and THREE MONTHS later I had my first (very shaky) web-site built. For no other reason than to populate the site with some sort of content I started to put my poems on the web. Of course, I expected thousands of visitors to come by and find me (and I didn’t really know what to expect after that). But reality is so often different to wild expectation.
After a couple of months and some serious cobwebs on my hit counter I realized I still had a lot to learn. However, my dreams were starting to unfold because I had found two things that I really enjoyed doing. One, I really enjoyed writing poetry. Two, I also liked being involved with the web. However, there appeared no possible pathway from a lucrative corporate job (with big bills and an even bigger mortgage) to becoming someone who really enjoyed his day to day existence, doing what he loved. Still, who knows the power of dreams?
Dreams create thought, thought generates action, action creates dreams. If you don’t dream, you can’t create them, or to take a line from a Harry Chapin song: “If you only dream when you’re asleep, how on earth can those dreams come true?” So, with no genuine long term objectives, I started to research what is called “Search Engine Positioning” or in layman’s terms; “how do you get to the top of the results when someone types in “anniversary poem” into Google?” I figured that if I could find some answers here then at least I could get some visitors to my site.
At about the same time I also struck on the idea of writing poems for other people. I’d already written a few for friends and family for their weddings and birthdays so I thought the idea at least had some merit. Of course, I had no intention of charging for my services but I thought I would at least ask them to pledge something to their favorite charity. The other purely selfish motive here was to get my site listed on the “Free” sites, those sites (which were very popular in the early days of the Internet) who offered links to sites where you could get things for “free”.
As luck would have it (or was it destiny, that powerful force that gets unleashed when someone follows their dreams?) I got accepted by one of the most popular free sites on the web. I was literally flooded with “orders” overnight. I’ll always remember that feeling, SOMEONE wants my work. It didn’t matter I wasn’t being paid, because all those people gave me the one thing that I needed – PRACTICE. Over time, I also built confidence in my ability as a poet.
Now when I look back at some of that early work, I must admit it wasn’t very good. But I was learning my trade, customers got something for nothing (I never had a system to make sure they followed through with their pledge) and things had started to happen. Now, I wasn’t following a grand plan and I was trying to fit all this in while holding down a 60-70 hour week job and still trying to make family and friends time. That was a strain, but nevertheless, I still felt I was on the right path.
It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and determination. In truth, there a lot of good and great poets out there but sadly, poetry is rarely commercially valued. It takes more than just words to get recognized. In my case, it was just effort. Lots of it. There was also a degree of stubbornness involved, especially when my friends and family told me it couldn't be done. I used that pessimism as "wind in my sails". There were also some key moments when I thought it was all too hard and I was about to give up. It was then that someone came along and said the right thing and that got me going again. There are one or three people who I owe particular thanks to and they know who they are. Never underestimate the power of commitment too, it seems at times I have had some "unseen" helping hands.
Today I am now a “full time” poet.
I am undoubtedly the poorest (in material terms) that I’ve ever been but my soul is happy. A Gift of Poetry (www.agiftofpoetry.com) is now one of the top 50,000 web-sites in the world (and if you type “anniversary poem” into Google, you should find me on page 1). Last year, I had over 3,000,000 visitors to my site! The feedback I receive on a daily basis encourages me forward. One Canadian girl even told me that she was going to commit suicide that night, that was until she had read one of my poems (“Last Words”, the true story about the last words spoken between a mother and her son, who unfortunately committed suicide later that day). Again, the life changing and in this case, the life saving power of poetry. For the record, I stayed in touch, she found a counsellor and the last time we spoke, she was starting to live life again.
There are many other examples where I’ve been privileged to help. Of course, it’s always a terrific honor to play a key role when a couple have been married 50 years. Wedding vows are always a pivotal moment. From birth to death (and beyond) I get involved. It is very special. There are times when life has not been kind and I have also written for rape and murder victims. A Father’s Revenge is the tragic tale of a father who wanted his nephew to suffer for murdering his 12 year old son. I very nearly refused the commission but managed to weave some hope into the story.
It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. I have made some enormous choices along the way and I am no longer married to the woman I started this journey with. I do not relish nor enjoy the role of the “weekend Dad” and that has been a terrible price to pay. I’m not sure my children yet understand the decision and that may take many years. Some people were particularly cruel and called me “mad”. That still hurts. However, I have started again with my first love and we are happy. Monday mornings now feel no different to Sunday mornings, as I “work” seven days a week. I am no longer stressed and no longer “manage my time”. A lot of my friends think I have “dropped out” but the truth is I now “work” harder and longer than I ever did in corporate world. Yesterday, for example, saw me at my desk at 0800 and I finished typing at 0100 this morning. However, I’m happy, I’m following my dreams and I’m doing something I love to do. I have made “my vacation my vocation” (Oscar Wilde).
I started this tale with that first poem (What If?), written nearly 10 years ago and my first after a break of 20 years, so I think it’s quite fitting that I end this story with the last poem I have written, and this is the one I was typing at one o’clock this morning. In the US, Dan Miller, a heroin addict and ex con had been shot and killed by the police this week. His brother, Dale, contacted me and asked if I would write a poem for his brother’s funeral. Dale wanted to celebrate Dan’s life and not have Dan remembered for his tragic end. Here it is:
One Big, Unstoppable Spirit
Let he who is without sin,
stand up and cast the first stone.
Famous words said a long time ago,
but the speaker knew he wasn’t alone.
Because we’ve all done things in life,
most of us, at one time, would’ve broken a law,
so please, for one moment, put your judgment aside,
and maybe that’s what these words are really for.
Because actually, I’d like to celebrate Dan’s life,
and that’s really why I’m standing here today,
because I’ve got a few thoughts on my mind,
yes, I do have some heartfelt words to say:
You see, Dan lived by different rules,
when he was born, they probably broke the mould,
but that doesn’t make him any less worthy,
his is a story that deserves to be told.
Dan had such a wonderful attitude about life,
and yes, he had such a wonderful soul,
and I think we could learn a lot from him,
now he’s gone, he’s finally playing the teacher’s role.
He never had an ounce of negative attitude,
even though his adult life was drug filled with despair,
he would always say he couldn’t “beat the demons”,
and with that much conviction, you could see them standing there.
And it was those demons that led him on their demonic path,
a path, unfortunately, that many others will follow,
take it from me, Heroin is no heroine,
as my brother’s death is so very hard to swallow.
Because Dan was such a free, fine spirit,
it seemed he danced to a different drum, a different tune,
and his life was tragically cut so short,
yes, his life is over (and way too soon).
He told me he couldn’t take those bars again,
so I guess in the end, he chose his own path out,
but that’s not the way I want to remember him,
because that’s not what his life was all about.
He fathered three beautiful children,
and now, he wont be here to watch them grow,
but I reckon his spirit is alive in us all,
yes, and there’s a few other things that you should know.
Never judge a book by it’s cover,
because you’ll never get to know what’s on the inside,
and when I think of Dan I get this feeling,
and my heart swells and fills with pride.
Because imagine the world and how it could be,
if we, like Dan, would give the shirts off our backs,
imagine the wonderful, chaotic, creative genius,
if we all didn’t follow those worn out tracks.
Dan certainly chose the path less traveled,
and now I’ve lost my protector, my elder brother,
and there’s a big empty space in my heart,
because I know, as Dan’s go, there’ll never be another.
And he had such big, wonderful dreams,
his attitude to life was “let’s be in it”,
so I know that in my heart, his dreams will continue on,
because undoubtedly, Dan had one big, unstoppable spirit.
Copyright Allen Jesson :) 2004
And I think that’s quite a fitting end to this recollection, as the power of poetry, the power of dreams, when harnessed correctly, can be summed up as one, big, unstoppable spirit. They can also bring a tear to the eye:
Great job. I have to tell you that you allowed me to cry for my brother for the first time and I thank you for that. You have a remarkable talent. I am going to visit my parents and read it to them. I would like to make changes if necessary later today after visiting my parents.
Thanks again and again and again."
So that brings me to the here and now. I continue to write for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and life’s sadder events. I now present my poetry in our exclusively designed hand-made cards. They have gone down really well so I will be adding to the range in the coming months. I will also be releasing “All The Very Best” which will be the pick of the first “crop”, a mix of the poems I have written for A Gift of Poetry (dot com) and some of the stuff that I’m still putting out, about life (and death) in general. The future will see me launch into the more commercial arena (offline, greeting cards etc.) as well as continue on with what I’m doing. It’s a lot of fun.
Finally, I think there is a Universal Law for making dreams happen. Five simple steps that will lead you to your heart’s desire:
Have a dream.
Ensure that the dream is real and achievable (but don’t let this restrict your ambition).
Believe in that dream.
Want that dream.
Commit to that dream
“Believe in, want and commit to your achievable dreams and they will happen”
But I think I will finish with another poet’s words, as I think he said this far more eloquently, so long ago. God Bless.
".. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too."
Goethe 18th century poet and philosopher
(or William Murray, leader of the Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951)
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