ready poem (#npm15)

You may have notice that I seem to gravitate toward poems with themes about embracing now, and celebrating little moments. Like this moment.

And then this one.

And the next.

And the one after that.

Yeah, you got me. That’s the kind of poem I love.

Now here’s another one.

You Reading This, Be Ready

William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember? copyright deb cooperman
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that  you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

What can anyone give you greater than now, 
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around? 

maya’s poem (#npm15)

Maya AngelouI’ve already told the story of when I met Maya Angelou, so if you want to the full scoops, you can read it here. Otherwise, just know that the day this graceful, tenacious, amazing giant of poetry recited the poem I’m sharing today at a small liberal arts college in Ohio, this (then) depressed, confused and nervous college student was graced with hope. And the most magical hug ever.

Always, always, always, thanks to my guardian angel/fairy godmother, Maya.

Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

utterance poem (#npm15)

utterance poemI took this photo on the subway a skillion years ago…with an actual camera (so you can probably guess: it was over 8 years ago). If you’re not a regular NY subway rider, here’s a little crash-course: the subways provide a captive audience for all sorts of advertising; strung above the seats are placards, giving you something to look at (since your phone won’t work underground), and what if you don’t have the paper or a book, and you’re trying really hard to do that NY thing of paying attention to your surroundings but not looking directly at anyone.

The ads are often for different continuing education schools in the city, cell phone plans, or “Dr. Zizmor, dermatologist.” (i wonder who picks their dermatologist from seeing an ad on the subway…?) (but i digress.)

This was not one of those; this was from the MTA’s “Poetry In Motion” program (part of the MTA’s commitment to “create meaningful connections among sites, neighborhoods, and people.”). It slowed things down; made me feel more present right where I was…the way a good poem does, but I didn’t have time to write it down, so I took a photo.

I just love finding poems in unexpected places.


W.S. Merwin

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence


rumi poem 2 – #npm15

My favorite Rumi poem. My wish and prayer for the world.Photo by Benjamin Miller

Out Beyond Ideas

Jelaluddin Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense

mary oliver’s wild geese (#npm15)

If you don’t already know this one…oh, I am SO excited that you’re going to get to read this. I know I say it about a lot of the poems I post, but I really do love this one.

Take a deep breath, sink in and enjoy, friends. (or, watch/listen to mary oliver read it here.)

Wild Geese Benjamin Miller from

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


david whyte poem – round 1 (#npm15)

courtesy: death to stock photoThe first time I heard of David Whyte, I was actually hearing him.

It was October of 2000, and I was working for The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) as their Promotions Director. We’d gone to Vancouver to exhibit/schmooze at the International Coach Federations annual conference — where Whyte was a keynote speaker. A couple of colleagues and I were on booth duty in the exhibition hall when most of the attendees went into the ballroom to hear Whyte speak. Luckily, the ballroom doors were left open, so we wound up hearing most of the talk.

I’d never heard of him before, but I became a fan that day. Part of it was what he talked about (how the poetic imagination can help people get in touch with their true purpose) (how would i not love that, right?)…and part of it was the passionate way he expressed it…cause, y’know, he’s a poet. (and bonus: he’s irish, so there’s that accent…)

It’s hard to pick a favorite poem of his, but I’ll start with this simple, powerful invitation. (if you want a real treat, check out a few of his videos to hear him read his and other’s poetry. melt-city.) (here’s a short video that includes a brief conversation/introduction before he reads this poem below.)

Everything is Waiting for You

David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.




“so?” poem – (#npm15)

copyright deb cooperman debcooperman.comI adore Parker Palmer. His book Let Your Life Speak was a game-changer for me. (i recommend it to so many clients searching for meaning in their too-busy-to-breathe lives). If you don’t know who he is, you might want to find out more (well, after you read today’s offering of course…).

I follow him on social media; he’s a HUGE poetry fan, and I will probably share more than one poem that I discovered because of him.

Today’s poem by the late Leonard Nathan is one of those.

Nathan was a professor of rhetoric at the University of California-Berkeley. My old friend — the poet Ann Veronica Simon (i’ll be sharing one of her poems soon) — died in 2003; she was in the PhD program at Berkeley…in rhetoric. I like to imagine that Nathan may have been one of her professors.

This wonderful poem centers on a question so many of us wrestle with: what can I do? what should I do? if I’m not a big fish in a big pond, how can I make a difference? what will make this fleeting, fragile time on the planet meaningful? for me, and for others?

And so…So?


Leonard Nathan

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.  


As Palmer added when he first “gifted” the poem to his social media followers: “I re-read this poem occasionally and ask myself, “Using everything I have—including my own ‘costly gifts of hunger, choice, and pain’—what can I do today to keep raising the ‘modest shrine to meaning’ I’d like to create with my life?” Maybe it’s planting a tree, maybe it’s a random act of kindness to a stranger, maybe it’s offering comfort to someone who’s hurting, maybe it’s writing a thank-you letter to a mentor who saw your potential and drew it out…There’s always something meaningful I can do to honor the gift of life in myself, others, and the world around us. Just do it!”

What he said. :)

feast on your life (#npm15)

I love reading poetry. When you read a poem to yourself, you can soak it in at your own pace. You can take time simmering over a line; over words and images.

I also love listening to poems. The cadence, the flow; the heartbeat. It’s interesting to experience a poem when read by the poet; it’s different, and also interesting, to hear a poet’s work read by others.

Love After Love by Derek Walcott is like a love letter and invitation from the universe.  Hearing it recited by the enigmatic anonymous reader who goes by the name of Tom O’Bedlam (more on him here, and here – in a piece by the late roger ebert) is like getting a love letter from the universe that’s read out-loud – not as performance – but with soul, by a gravely voice man from England.

Enjoy reading, and listening to this favorite of mine: Love After Love.

Love After Love

by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

writing, talking to ourselves, and kindness

Selling with a message of empowerment has become Dove’s stock-in-trade. And whether you buy their products or not, the messages they’re sharing are good to remember.

In a recent commercial that’s airing in France, Dove asks a bunch of women to write down every thought they have about themselves throughout the day. According to the article in Fast Company where I first read about it, Dove picked out “the most negative ones…and two actresses then articulated the thoughts in a cafe, within earshot of the same (unsuspecting) participants.”

One actress starts telling the other: “you’re just fat and ordinary”…”sit up straight or your belly looks big”…”your face looks like a bulldog”…”I wish I could see you with a normal body…at least once.”

“Dove says this film is intended to “showcase their thoughts” with a view to helping women rethink how they talk to themselves.” And the point is clearly made.

The women who wrote these comments are shocked to hear them come from one woman directed to another. “It’s what I say to myself all day long. Now I get how violent it is.” “She said exactly the same things I say to myself, like in my notebook.” “It’s horrifying.”

And then there’s this one, that seems to knock it home even deeper…

I hope my daughter never speaks to herself like that.

When we think of our daughters, our friends, our nieces, and other young girls and women, this sort of talk is horrifying. Yet we do it to ourselves all the time.

But there’s a way to start changing the way we talk to ourselves. And it doesn’t have to involve hearing someone else speak your words out loud.

Try the first part of Dove’s experiment: write down your thoughts. Write them throughout one day, or one week. If that seems too daunting: just sit down for a few minutes and do a brain-dump of all the harsh inner-critic nastiness that lurks beneath the surface. Record all the dark, icky things you say to yourself about your looks, your competence, how you operate in relationships, and your ability to chart your own course.

Then put the writing down and go do something else for a while. An hour; a day; a week…whatever feels right for you. (you might want to put on some upbeat music and dance around your living room to shake it off a bit before you move on into your day.)

Then, when you come back and read it, does it surprise you? Or are you so used to it that it almost feels true? Ask yourself: would you talk to your dearest friends like that?

No? Then reframe all that junk and write something about all those things you said as if you are your own best friend.

Because that’s the goal, kids: be for yourself as you would be to those you love.

Write it down. Notice. Adjust. Make it better.

(now go: be kind.)

Want more support and encouragement like this?

Sign up for my fabu-list (see that sign up form on the right? that’s it). You’ll get notices of upcoming events, services and cool resources…and, as soon as you sign up, you’ll get a copy of my free ebook: Write Now – Unleashing Your Unapologetic Fabulosity with a Writing Practice. Or sign up for Write Yourself Awesome: my FREE (that’s right FREE) online community for women who use writing to improve the quality of their lives through a writing practice.

writing to a life beyond cliches

mary oliver quoteWe all know we get just one go ‘round at this party on planet earth.

We’ve nodded at the old statement/cliche: “no one on their death bed ever said: I wish I’d spent more time at the office” is true.

And I’ll betcha you’ve heard Mary Oliver’s inspiring poem The Summer Day (or at least the iconic final line): “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” and felt a longing to live that way. (you might’ve even pinned that one on your “inspiring quotes” board on pinterest.)

But are we living mindfully? Living in a way that reflects that longing? 

Are you?

I know I’m not always mindful. I’ve been known to veg out on the couch, binging on old episodes of The Office on Netflix. Or sleeping in instead of getting on the elliptical – even though I know I’d feel better if I did.

You might wonder why I confess this, since I make my living helping women use a writing practice to figure out what they want to do “with their one wild and precious life,” and then do that…and I’m not always on track doing it myself.

Y’know why?

Because living a life of meaning, and trying to forge a life off the beaten path isn’t easy. And it takes practice.

We try and we fail…but if we really want it, we try again. We remind ourselves, we get up again; we course correct. We find allies and fellow travelers; we ask for support. We forgive ourselves and keep at it.

Everyday we have to choose it and work it.

One great way to get started is…

(you know what i’m going to say, don’t you?)

…to write for a few minutes every day. Write to remind yourself what you want and what matters. Get up in the morning, or stop before lunch, or right before bed, pull out whatever notebook or scrap of paper you can find, and remind yourself that if you don’t want to wind up regretting the long hours at the office, the neglected relationships, or the lack of a creative outlet in your life, you’ve got to spend time with yourself. Take a few minutes today and remind yourself what you really want.

If you don’t KNOW what you really want, all the more reason to write.

Start with: “I don’t know what I want, but I really want to know…” or “I wonder what I want…”

Because if you want to find your way to your own answers, be in the process, write your way out of and into new goals and dreams, you’ve got to start where you are. Get writing. You’ll meet yourself on the page in between kvetch-fests and to-do lists. You’ll uncover repeat patterns, and you’ll discover the ways that you are your best ally, and where you sabotage your own best intentions. (note to self: you feel better when you do a 1/2 hour on the elliptical. for fark sake, get on the damn thing tomorrow).

What are YOU going to do today? What are you going to do with that one wild and precious life?

I encourage women to use a writing practice as a tool for self discovery, making more aligned choices and living a fabulous life of meaning.

Want to learn more? I’m about to make some big changes in my offerings, so while you can check things out on the Work With Me page, if you don’t see something you want/need, drop me a line and we can work together to design the right kind of support that will help you write your way to a life of meaning.

Gonna close out with a little musical inspiration from The Indigo Girls today. Cause I can.