Using poetry in circle hosting

By Sharon Faulds
December 2016

In the days after the American election we learned of the death of world renowned Canadian poet, author and singer Leonard Cohen. His poetry gives us permission to sit in the dark places, pause and be present, to listen for what is wanting to emerge. These two events gave me the idea of sharing my experience in using poetry in circle and to talk about how it helps to open the space to another way of knowing. 

For award winning poet, translator and essayist Jane Hirshfield, poetry transforms the world as an antidote to fundamentalism, whether political or spiritual. Poetry is about complexity, nuance, and subtlety. Poetry allows us to see clearly without simplification. It creates larger fields of possibility. The imagination is limitless, so even when confronted with an unchangeable outer circumstance, a single poem can give us the sense that there’s always, still, a changeability, a malleability, of inner circumstance. That’s the beginning of freedom. 

Hirshfield reminds us that poetry informs us that we are not alone, that other humans have been here before, and have found a way to sustain aliveness, to find beauty within grief. And this allows us to go on. This also is freedom. 

Poetry connects us to the ancient knowing in us, just as circle connects us to our deep longing to be in community. 

Here are some of my favourite poems that are part of my circle practice that I have used at start point, as an opening to a question we are working with, or at the beginning of an exercise with participants, or at the closing of circle:

Photo credit: Sharon Faulds

Photo credit: Sharon Faulds

  • For Presence by John O’Donohue
  • For Beauty by John O’Donohue
  • For Longing by John O’Donohue
  • Wild Geese by Mary Oliver 
  • Everything is Waiting for You by David Whyte
  • All my life is a Circle by Harry Chapin
  • Farewell from Te of Piglet by Hoff
  • Anthem by Leonard Cohen
  • Sisters of Mercy by Leonard Cohen
  • Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen
  • Circle Power by Black Elk Speaks

What poems inspire your circle practice? 

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

— Leonard Cohen - Anthem

Sharon Faulds is a practitioner & teacher of The Circle Way. She hosts transformative conversations and builds collaborative relationships in teams and organizations. Her main focus is applying circle learnings/teachings to the challenges we face in healthcare. While studying for her MAL, she was introduced to Christina Baldwin at Royal Roads University, where she spoke about The Circle Way as an ancient process as a way of being in the world and emerging as a new way. This ignited her passion to become a circle carrier practicing and teaching circle as a means to creating a better world.