Every Sunday I listen to CBC Radio One to hear Sunday Edition. Last Sunday I heard the story “Poetry Saved Me” and thought of something that had happened to me. In my book “Wings Toward Sunlight”(Mosaic Press 2011), I shared my story in the Acknowledgements, but I never knew that one of my poems could save another person’s life.
When World Poetry founder Ariadne Sawyer invited me to read my poems in Vancouver last summer, in her email she said “I have some news for you. There is an interesting story about your gift poem. ” I wondered what kind of story that she wanted to reveal. On July 25 the poetry reading night in New Westminster library (B.C.), Ariadne shared the story with all the audience. She said that one lady called her to ask her to tell me, that she couldn’t come that night for my reading, but she wanted to thank me because my poem “After Reading Ted Hughes’ “Full Moon and Little Frieda” saved her life. She said that a few years ago she felt depressed and wanted to commit suicide, one day she wandered in a library and saw my poem on the wall. She read it then was hooked by its beautiful words and meaning. She found hope and abandoned her idea of suicide. I was very surprised and glad to hear the story. Poetry saved me, but from time to time I have struggled to find the meaning of writing poems and publishing them. At that moment I found it and felt so happy. I remember Emily Dickinson’s poem:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Later in China, Ms. Tang, a reporter From CCTV-4 interviewed me, I told her the story. She asked me: “How did my poem save her? What is her name?” I said: “ I don’t know.” Indeed, I also asked myself the same question: How did the poem save her? It is a sad poem and tells two sad stories about two great poets(Ted Hughes and Li Po).
Yesterday I discussed it with my book editor and good friend Terry Barker about the Sunday Edition Program “Poetry Saved Me”. We read After Reading Ted Hughes’ “Full Moon and Little Frieda” again and again. Then I think we found the reason. We both agree that although it is a sad poem, but in the end it lifts up. It invites the reader, the moon and these great dead poets to hang on… come back once more… this calling is very touching and authentic. Life might be short, but the beauty of living and poetry will last forever. So we think this kind of message gives hope and saved her life. Of course, each poem every reader reads differently. I am glad that my poem stopped one heart from breaking.