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Ten Poems to Set You Free [Hardcover]

Roger Housden
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 9.65 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

Dec 2003
Ten Poems to Set You Free inspires you to claim the life that is truly yours. In today’s world it is deceptively easy to lose sight of our direction and the things that matter and give us joy. How quickly the days can slip by, the years all gone, and we, at the end of our lives, mourning the life we dreamed of but never lived. These ten poems, and Roger Housden’s reflections on them, urge us to stand once and for all, and now, in the heart of our own life.

This volume brings together the voices of Thomas Merton, David Whyte, the Basque poet Miguel de Unamuno, Anna Swir from Poland, Stanley Kunitz, the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy, and Jane Hirshfield, as well as three of Housden’s favorites, Rumi, Mary Oliver, and Naomi Shihab Nye. His luminous essays on the poems show us how to integrate the poets’ truth into our own lives.

Roger Housden’s love of poetry and life leaps from every page—so much so that his readers feel they have found a guide and mentor through the extraordinary Ten Poems series. He has opened the eyes and hearts of many, not just to the power of poetry, but to the truth and beauty of the life of the soul. What more can one ask?

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (Dec 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400051126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400051120
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 244,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars totally refreshing 12 Jan 2013
By rose
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roger Housden delights with his fresh infectious approach to poetry, showing how the use of words can be so evoking and just grasps you to make you want to gasp!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten Poems to Set You Free 28 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This compilation of poems with commentary by the author is stirring. I take this volume to work to remind me to hold onto my soul; it serves as a defense against the pummeling of the world. This book needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully, allowing time to digest the deep meanings. David Whyte's poem in particular captures the essence of what it means to be an individual with a soul. Outstanding!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MAGNIFICANT BOOK 26 Jan 2004
By Ray Napolitano - Published on Amazon.com
If you allow it, the sheer beauty of these ten poems will inspire you toward your own unique life and free you from the clutter of the everyday mind. The author's commentaries are as profound as the selected poems themselves.Get this book,read it-no,live it , and allow its poetry to enrich your soul!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "While the soul after all, is only a window..." 19 Nov 2005
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
This intimate volume features a selection of ten poems, a guide to redeeming the spiritual hearts of our own lives. Through the voices of David Whyte, Jane Hirschfield, Miguel de Unamuno, Rumi, Thomas Merton, Jane Oliver and more, Housden offers his own reflections on the interpretation of these poems in chapters immediately following each work. For those who need a guide to navigate the phrases of some of the world's great poets, the author illustrates each example with contemporary application, text and subtext, the poet's words reflecting the meaning for individual lives. Moreover, Housden delves into the other writings of the chosen poets, discussing the themes of their work and why these particular poems are definitive, that we may "integrate the poet's truths into our own lives".

Following David Whyte's "Self-Portrait", Housden's "Look in the Mirror" suggests that Whyte's poem is a personal wake-up call. Like most of his writing, Whyte "champions the truth of the soul over the clamor of the social personality". Miguel de Unamuno's "Throw Yourself Like a Seed" precedes the author's chapter titled "Recover Your Spirit". The poet, who died shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, firmly believed that "at times to be silent is to lie". An enemy of Franco and his fascism, the poet spoke to the great themes of the human spirit, a call to courage and integrity, even against the most disheartening odds. The author lifts Unamuno's words, his incredible bravery at a time of great turmoil, and brings them to the fertile ground of our more modern concerns, the small decisions that move us away from our finest selves and the need for personal commitment.

Many of these works are familiar, certainly Rumi, Merton and Mary Oliver, but each has a powerful message on the evolution of the spirit. Combining the fluidity of chosen poems and his own considered comments, the author calls us to attend to personal potential, the daily opportunities for growth and the evolution of the soul that is a by-product of self-reflection. Not everyone wants, or needs, a guide through these works, but for those who are overwhelmed and cannot apply them in an individual context, Housden's Ten Poems to Set You Free is a first step into a rewarding future, where personality, sense of purpose and soul are fully integrated: "We are able to be the one we do not know. This is the greatest freedom available to us as human beings." Luan Gaines/ 2005.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poetry is Personal Experience, Not Self-Help 4 Jan 2009
By alldayReader - Published on Amazon.com
Roger Housden has written a series of books about poems, all with the theme of reading and using poems to help a person change themselves for the better. Housden writes with energy and sincerity and he picks great poems by good poets. Unfortunately,Ten Poems to Set You Free reads too much like a self-help book and contains too little of what Housden does best, which is give us one man's personal experience with poetry. Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz, and Miguel de Unamuno are poets I've read for a long time with joy and pleasure and I will be sure to read Jane Hirshfield now that Housden has introduced her work to me.

As much as I believe that great good comes from reading great books, and of course this includes great poetry, I have trouble with the self-help and self-knowledge and self-focusing that Housden uses in discussing the works of the ten poets he chooses. He knows poetry well; he discusses and uses many more poems and poets than just the ones listed in his table of contents. He is also well-versed in religious traditions, particularly eastern ones and seems very comfortable aligning those philosophies with the dictates he finds in the ten poems he's chosen to "set you free."

Poetry and prose inevitably have at least two meanings: there will always be what the author meant to say and convey, and what the reader gets out of the words. The more readers, the more meanings. It is not fair really to say a reader did not "get" a certain writer; every reader is free to interpret as he/she wishes. But in making an argument for the meaning of a poem, a reader has to be able to support his/her argument. I was not convinced by Housden's rather literal undertakings of the poems, nor was I comfortable with his generalizing application of the words. One person's interpretation of a text is interesting to me, and especially when that one person is thoughtful and intense. Housden makes good and sound arguments for himself; he deeply feels the poetry that he reads and is genuine in his essays about them. But when he strays from himself and starts giving general advice to the reader, he loses me completely. I just am not convinced by the language of self-awareness and self-knowledge: too much generic "self" and too little that is interesting or unique.

Poetry is great for how it brings you out of yourself and to someplace new. Even when you recognize where you are (in a place of love or despair or obsession or loss) it is the new - and shared with the poet -- experience of it that changes you forever. Sometimes poetry is just about the beauty of a line, the way one line can resonate with you and make your heart actually vibrate with understanding. That is where poetry sets you free (to use Housden's title), by taking you out of yourself and bringing you to someone else's private outlook, like going to a tree house with its new special view over the yard you may have known (and mowed) for years. Because you are seeing everything from a new and different angle, you are freed from old interpretations of life and love, goodness and strength, what is worth it and what is not. It is the same with great works of art: seeing a painting can change the whole way you look at, for example, nighttime, after looking at the night paintings of Van Gogh.

Housden has chosen great poems for delivering the message of joy and the mandate of getting up and doing whatever it is that you need to do or want to do. Live authentically, as told in David Whyte's poem: "you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand." Live with commitment to your living, from Unamuno: "to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts is the work; start then, turn to the work."

But I disagree with Housden that Unamuno is talking about one's life work. Housden says a lot in this book about how important it is to find out what our work is meant to be and to discard the easy or stable job and go for the gusto. But I think Unamuno's point is that whatever the job you get paid for is, the only important job is the actual act of living; what is important is to live fully committed, no matter what our job or our labor is, and our reason for living is the living itself. Get out there and live, throw the seed of active, engaged, committed living everywhere you go, in everything you do: "the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant." Many of us will live with jobs that are just jobs but our lives are full and rich because we are committed to fully living (appreciating) the moments of each day. Our life is abundant when within ourselves we see the abundance of life.

As Mary Oliver asks, in the poem used by Housden: "Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it life?" This is an amazing line and I appreciate Housden sharing it with me; I appreciate him sounding the warning bell of half-lived lives and using the beauty of poetry to ring the message home. I just wish that he would stick to his own personal experiences in bringing us this wonderful poetry and leave the jargon of self-help to the preachers.

Read more at ww.readallday.org
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once again 12 Jun 2013
By 88Poets - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I keep buying new copies of this book because I give my copy away to deserving friends and then I find myself missing it again. There is a comfort in this book that I return to again and again both for the remembrance of the poets and poems chosen, and the author's conversation around the poems.
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