the unbroken

Dec 24, 2020 poetry appreciation

A couple of years ago the 42 group began a December tradition of making a poetry advent calendar. We choose a topic and each contribute a few of our favourite poems which, with a great deal of sherry and swearing, I grapple into a vaguely consistent format, allotting a poem to each day of advent and emailing out the resulting document. This year our topic has been healing/reassurance/comfort, that sort of thing. The Christmas Eve poem a group member contributed was new to me—so beautiful and so apt for these strange times that, with apologies to group members who are seeing the same poem twice in one day, I share it here too. Delight in ‘The Unbroken‘ by Rashani.

Particularly at the moment, after This Year, it feels good to experience a profoundly hopeful vision such as this poem expresses. Regular readers won’t be surprised to know that I love how this poem accepts the truth of suffering but keeps in sight the fact that fully experiencing it can be transformative: that through ‘darkness/ we [can be] sanctioned into being’. ‘The Unbroken’ offers us a succession of simple and beautiful images affirming the relationship between apparent opposites—brokennness/unbroken, shatteredness/unshatterable, sorrow/joy, fragility/strength and so on. It encourages us to trust in our “weakness”—trust in the processes of loss and change with which life confronts us.

The poem can been seen as one expression of the theories lying at the heart of Gestalt and person-centred therapy. Simply put, the ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’ posits that we can only change by first becoming more fully what we already are (you can read a scholarly, brief and interesting piece about it here). In On Becoming a Person Carl Rogers, the founding Big Cheese of person-centred therapy, put it this way: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”. Isn’t it a lovely thought that we might not need to try to make ourselves different, or Better—that by being fully what we are, we’ll evolve in a useful way anyway?

I find this theory, and this poem, very comforting. I hope it might speak to you too.

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