The Power of Gift Poetry – The Power of Dreams

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When I look back at my life and see how it has changed in the last ten years, I, for one, can see the power in poetry (and the enormous power that is released when someone follows their dreams). Ten years ago, I was the typically lost 35 year old. I had a young family to raise and was struggling to hold down a high-powered job in the logistics industry. The pay was good and I worked very hard. I’d come home at night very weary but I still had trouble sleeping. My addictions (to gambling, nicotine and alcohol) were increasing in magnitude and my soul was becoming less than happy with the direction my life was taking. Sure, I had the nice house, attractive wife and beautiful children, high-paying job, good holidays and everything else that goes with a “successful” career. But I was not happy. In truth, I was stressed to buggery and on Monday mornings my heart was heavy. Friday nights I felt better but the week had taken it’s toll and it was not until Sunday afternoon that I started to feel “normal” once again, but then the whole weekly cycle would start all over again… And then things started to change, and all it took was one poem.At school I found writing poetry remarkably easy. I was always quite creative growing up but I think most kids are. As you know, no one can make a living out of poetry:o) so that is why I found a career in logistics. As a consequence I did not write again for 20 years. At a management course we were encouraged to get in touch with our artistic side.That inspired “What If?” a few months later, the rest followed. For me, this period demonstrated the absolute life changing power of poetry. For the record, this was it, a questioning look at those middle-aged tremors that I was experiencing. What If?

What if my hair falls out and I end up bald as a coot? What if I do not make budget and he hires a smarter suit? What if I get so fat, I can no longer touch my toes? What if my wife left me, for a younger man she chose?What if my boy is gay and likes the look of a bum? What if my girl is also that way and never becomes a Mum?What if I saw my doctor? And he said “You have got the big C”, and what if I was run over, walking out of his surgery?What if they pressed the button, on every mortal soul? What if there was hell on earth, when man played his final role?What if there is no heaven and it’s all been a big bluff? What if there is a heaven and I was not good enough?What if it’s all been for nothing, but to procreate? Well, I have had such a lovely time, I will just put my trust in fate…A Gift of Poetry A few months prior to writing this I’d put myself on a leadership course, where I had learned many skills to get me through my increasingly hectic days. They included time and stress management, negotiation, team building etc. Most importantly, in a revealing couple of days they got us to question ourselves, and I mean really question ourselves. Who are you? Where are you going?

What are you really good at? What are your artistic leanings? It was that last question that reawakened the poet and artist within me. I remembered at school being quite handy at putting a rhyme or two together, but once the homework assignment had finished I quickly put the poetic pen down. In truth, I did not pick it up for another twenty years and ‘What If?’ was the result. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised with the result but I had no idea I had taken the stopper out of the bottle, the bottle that contained over 1,000 poems (written in the next 10 years).I showed that poem to a few friends and family and was surprised by the encouragement I received. So much so, that I started to get the pen out more often and probably had about 30 poems down by the end of that first year. They were generally about life. I’d pick up a few ideas and then start to create a story poem around it. But as most budding poets can experience (sooner or later) I found that I was running out of things to say. Call it writer’s block, call it lack of inspiration, call it what you will, it stopped me writing. It was at this time I was the least productive (at least in terms of writing) and I got on with my corporate life.

A Soldiers Fortune

“… At the end of a Summers day, all too soon, the bugler sadly blows, it is a mournful tune, it’s too sad and hopelessly, it is a melody that everybody knows.

The notes hang on in the air so still, as the tears roll down a caring face, for they too wish they were born for a different reason, they too wish they were born in another place.And the memory of the tune lives on, and like a brave soldier, it can never truly die, but it too leaves an empty feeling, and a simple wish for a time gone by…”

A couple of job changes led me to a quieter backwater, more money and less stress. I thought I’d got it made but there was still this restlessness within me, I guess my soul was still speaking (but I was not listening). I’d still occasionally write but there was no real drive. No need. But I was still restless within.

In 1997 I started to recognize the power that the Internet was gathering and I thought this was something I should know about. So I purchased a book “How to build a web-site in less than 24 hours” and THREE MONTHS later I had my first (very shaky) web-site built. For no other reason than to populate the site with some sort of content I started to put my poems on the web. Of course, I expected thousands of visitors to come by and find me (and I did not really know what to expect after that). But reality is so often different to wild expectation.

After a couple of months and some serious cobwebs on my hit counter I realized I still had a lot to learn. However, my dreams were starting to unfold because I had found two things that I really enjoyed doing. One, I really enjoyed writing poetry. Two, I also liked being involved with the web. However, there appeared no possible pathway from a lucrative corporate job (with big bills and an even bigger mortgage) to becoming someone who really enjoyed his day to day existence, doing what he loved. Still, who knows the power of dreams?

Dreams create thought, thought generates action, action creates dreams. If you do not dream, you can’t create them, or to take a line from a song: “If you only dream when you’re asleep, how on earth can those dreams come true?” So, with no genuine long-term objectives, I started to research what is called “Search Engine Positioning” or in layman’s terms; “how do you get to the top of the results when someone types in “anniversary poem” into Google?” I figured that if I could find some answers here then at least I could get some visitors to my site.

At about the same time I also struck on the idea of writing poems for other people. I’d already written a few for friends and family for their weddings and birthdays so I thought the idea at least had some merit. Of course, I had no intention of charging for my services but I thought I would at least ask them to pledge something to their favourite charity. The other purely selfish motive here was to get my site listed on the “Free” sites, those sites (which were very popular in the early days of the Internet) who offered links to sites where you could get things for “free”.

Miracle Child

“… There was definitely a presence in that room, and maybe you had an unseen helping hand, but it was your presence of mind that saved the day, when things did not exactly go as planned.

January 8th will always be a magical day, because you not only saved a son, we gained a lifelong friend, and I will be eternally grateful to you, until my journey’s end.And the photo of you and Tyler, tells the story without the need of narration; Tyler looking at you with gratitude, and what can only be described as admiration.

I want to thank you Doctor, for not only your remarkable daring, but I want to thank you for being the man that you are, personable, loving and very caring…”

As luck would have it (or was it destiny, that powerful force that gets unleashed when someone follows their dreams?) I got accepted by one of the most popular free sites on the web. I was literally flooded with “orders” overnight. I’ll always remember that feeling, SOMEONE wants my work. It did not matter that I was not being paid, because all those people gave me the one thing that I needed – PRACTICE. Over time, I also built confidence in my ability as a poet.

Now when I look back at some of that early work, I must admit it was not very good. But I was learning my trade, customers got something for nothing (I never had a system to make sure they followed through with their pledge) and things had started to happen. Now, I was not following a grand plan and I was trying to fit all this in while holding down a 60-70 hour a week job and still trying to make time for family and friends. That was a strain, but nevertheless, I still felt I was on the right path.

It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and determination. In truth, there a lot of good and great poets out there but, sadly, poetry is rarely commercially valued. It takes more than just words to get recognized. In my case, it was just effort. Lots of it. There was also a degree of stubbornness involved, especially when my friends and family told me it couldn’t be done. I used that pessimism as “wind in my sails”. There were also some key moments when I thought it was all too hard and I was about to give up. It was then that someone came along and said the right thing and that got me going again. There are a few people who I owe particular thanks to and they know who they are. Never underestimate the power of commitment too, it seems at times I have had some “unseen” helping hands.

Today I am now a “full time” poet.

I am undoubtedly the poorest (in material terms) that I’ve ever been but my soul is happy. A Gift of Poetry is now one of the top 250,000 web-sites in the world (and if you type “anniversary poem” into Google, you should find me on page 1). Last year, I had over 3,000,000 visitors to my site! The feedback I receive on a daily basis encourages me forward. One Canadian girl even told me that she was going to commit suicide that night, that was until she had read one of my poems (“Last Words”, the true story about the last words spoken between a mother and her son, who unfortunately committed suicide later that day). Again, the life-changing and in this case, the life-saving power of poetry. For the record, I stayed in touch, she found a counsellor and the last time we spoke, she was starting to live life again.

Of course, it’s always a terrific honour be able to write poetry for special events in people’s lives. One such example is to be able to play a key role when a couple have been married 50 years. Wedding vows are always a pivotal moment. From birth to death (and beyond) I get involved. It is very special. There are times when life has not been kind and I have also written for rape and murder victims. “A Father’s Revenge” is the tragic tale of a father who wanted his nephew to suffer for murdering his 12 year old son. I very nearly refused the commission but managed to weave some hope into the story.

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. I have made some enormous choices along the way and I am no longer married to the woman I started this journey with. I do not relish nor enjoy the role of the “weekend Dad” and that has been a terrible price to pay. I’m not sure my children yet understand the decision and that may take many years. Some people were particularly cruel and called me “mad”. That still hurts. However, I have started again with my first love and we are happy. Monday mornings now feel no different to Sunday mornings, as I “work” seven days a week. I am no longer stressed and no longer “manage my time”. A lot of my friends think I have “dropped out” but the truth is I now “work” harder and longer than I ever did in the corporate world. Yesterday, for example, saw me at my desk at 0800 and I finished typing at 0100 this morning. However, I’m happy, I’m following my dreams and I’m doing something I love to do. I have made “my vacation my vocation” (Oscar Wilde).

I started this tale with that first poem (What If?), written nearly 10 years ago and my first after a break of 20 years, so I think it’s quite fitting that I end this story with the last poem I have written, and this is the one I was typing at one o’clock this morning. In the US, Dan Miller, a heroin addict and ex con had been shot and killed by the police this week. His brother, Dale, contacted me and asked if I would write a poem for his brother’s funeral. Dale wanted to celebrate Dan’s life and not have Dan remembered for his tragic end.

One Big, Unstoppable Spirit

Let he who is without sin, stand up and cast the first stone. Famous words said a long time ago, but the speaker knew he was not alone.

Because we have all done things in life, most of us, at one time, would have broken a law, so please, for one moment, put your judgement aside, and maybe that is what these words are really for.Because actually, I’d like to celebrate Dan’s life, and that is really why I’m standing here today, because I have got a few thoughts on my mind, yes, I do have some heartfelt words to say:You see, Dan lived by different rules, when he was born, they probably broke the mould, but that does not make him any less worthy, his is a story that deserves to be told.Dan had such a wonderful attitude about life, and yes, he had such a wonderful soul, and I think we could learn a lot from him, now he has gone, he is finally playing the teachers role.He never had an ounce of negative attitude, even though his adult life was drug filled with despair, he would always say he could not beat the demons, and with that much conviction, you could see them standing there.And it was those demons that led him on their demonic path, a path, unfortunately, that many others will follow, take it from me, Heroin is no heroine, like my brother’s death, so very hard to swallow.

Because Dan was such a free, fine spirit, it seemed he danced to a different drum, a different tune, and his life was tragically cut so short, yes, his life is over (and way too soon).He told me he could not take those bars again, so I guess in the end, he chose his own path out, but that is not the way I want to remember him, because that is not what his life was all about.He fathered three beautiful children, and now, he will not be here to watch them grow, but I reckon his spirit is alive in us all, yes, and there are a few other things that you should know.Never judge a book by its cover, because you will never get to know what is on the inside, and when I think of Dan I get this feeling, and my heart swells and fills with pride.Because imagine the world and how it could be, if we, like Dan, would give the shirts off our backs, imagine the wonderful, chaotic, creative genius, if we all didn’t follow those worn out tracks.Dan certainly chose the path less travelled, and now I have lost my protector, my elder brother, and there’s a big empty space in my heart, because I know, as Dan’s go, there will never be another.And he had such big, wonderful dreams, his attitude to life was let’s be in it, so I know that in my heart, his dreams will continue on, because undoubtedly, Dan had one big, unstoppable spirit.And I think that is quite a fitting end to this recollection, as the power of poetry, the power of dreams, when harnessed correctly, can be summed up as one, big, unstoppable spirit. They can also bring a tear to the eye:

“Allen, Great job. I have to tell you that you allowed me to cry for my brother for the first time and I thank you for that. You have a remarkable talent. I am going to visit my parents and read it to them. I would like to make changes if necessary later today after visiting my parents. Thanks again and again and again.”

So that brings me to the here and now. I continue to write for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and sadder events. I now present my poetry in our exclusively designed hand-made cards. They have gone down really well so I will be adding to the range in the coming months. I will also be releasing “All The Very Best” which will be the pick of the first “crop”, a mix of the poems I have written for A Gift of Poetry (dot com) and some of the stuff that I’m still putting out, about life (and death) in general. The future will see me launch into the more commercial arena (offline, greeting cards etc.) as well as continue on with what I am doing. It is a lot of fun.Finally, I think there is a Universal Law for making dreams happen. Six simple steps that will lead you to your heart’s desire:

1. Have a dream.

2. Ensure that the dream is real and achievable (but don’t let this restrict your ambition).

3. Believe in that dream.

4. Want that dream.

5. Commit to that dream

6. Think that dream

“Believe in, want and commit to your achievable dreams and they will happen”

But I think I will finish with another poets words, as I think he said this far more eloquently, so long ago. God Bless. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. Goethe, 18th century poet and philosopher.

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