It may be an unlikely place to find solace, or even a thin sliver of joy, but lately Instagram is delivering just that. I know, weird, eh?

On those mornings when Hubby sleeps later than I do, I take my first cup of tea and my iPad to the sunroom, and even these last few days out onto the deck, and I read, or listen to, all the lovely accounts I’ve subscribed to on Instagram which are about poetry. Poets reading their own poetry, or posting their written words, content creators presenting people, some of them poets, reading poetry. Sometimes it’s read by respected actors like Judy Dench and Helena Bonham Carter. Or simply writers and literature enthusiasts talking about poetry or poetic prose.

I know it sounds nerdy. But don’t forget that I taught English for many years. And while I’ve never been a great reader of poetry, I’ve always adored a poetic turn of phrase. The way writers can craft a sentence that transports the reader. The way they can gel big thoughts into a tiny phrase.

There used to be an ad on television for Sprint (a telecommunications company) in which Candice Bergen said that Sprint gave us the most for the least. She demonstrated using her index finger and thumb, holding them far apart, and then close together. The most service, far apart, for the least price, close together. Get it? And I riffed off that to explain the power of poetry to my students. The most meaning, fingers far apart, for the least number of words, fingers close together. That’s why, I explained to them, poetry packs such a punch. It requires us to pause and think about its meaning.

And for me on these solitary mornings it’s the thinking part, the dawning glow of understanding, of recognition, of fellow feeling, that brings the sliver of joy.

There’s a poem by Scottish poet Donna Ashworth that has been making its way around the various social media sites. It’s from her book Wild Hope and it’s called “Joy Chose You.” Ashworth says her poem is a “reminder” for us “to embrace unexpected moments of joy.” She says you don’t have to chase joy, it just “sneaks in,” it “slithers through the cracks of [our] imperfect life.”

I think that’s what I’ve been doing for that half hour with my tea and my iPad every morning. Letting joy sneak in.

I’m not a huge fan of Ashworth’s poetry. I like some poems. Some are too sweet for me. But I do like her turn of phrase many times. And her ideas. How she echoes what I’m thinking myself. I like the idea of joy slithering, of its being slippery and hard to catch, and how you just have to wait for it to come to you, and be open to accept it.

I’ve also been listening to English poet Harry Baker read his work on Instagram. I like this guy. He’s tall, and kind of goofy, and quite endearing. And I love his poetry and the poems of others he chooses to share. In fact it was his reading of Ashworth’s “Joy Comes Back,” the follow-up poem to “Joy Chose You,” that put me onto Donna Ashworth in the first place. You can find his reading of that poem here if you’re interested. You can follow Donna Ashworth on Instagram here.

The first poem I listened to on Harry Baker’s site a couple of weeks ago is called “Atlas” by U. A. Fanthorpe, all about “a kind of love called maintenance.” It’s sweet and clever and simple and not saccharine all at the same time. Have a listen here. You can follow Harry Baker on Instagram here.

Another account I’ve been following on Instagram and which gives me something to ponder with my morning tea is Coffee with Keats. It’s by writer Andrew Buckley. Some of his content is literary criticism and discussion. But he also features people reading poems, or bits of poems, historical footage of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Sylvia Plath talking about their work, or critic Harold Bloom speaking about the importance of reading.

Buckley’s IG account first attracted me because he had a bit on Katherine Mansfield. If ever a writer knew how to deliver slivers of joy through small, seemingly insignificant details perfectly described, it’s New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. Buckley says in his post that Mansfield creates in her readers “a renewed appreciation for the small moments, for those bright glimmers of grace scattered throughout our days which we tend to either ignore or quickly forget once experienced.” Like when Else finally sees the little lamp in The Doll’s House. I love that story.

I’m reminded of Hubby’s and my visit to Mansfield’s birthplace in Wellington, New Zealand many years ago. And how entranced I was to be there, and see the little lamp for myself. So entranced, one might even say quietly joyful, that Hubby withdrew and went for a walk around the neighbourhood while I worshipped at yet another literary shrine. Ha.

Anyway. That’s what has been keeping me light-hearted these days. Poetry. Poetry has been keeping my mood aloft, shooting me a few slivers of joy each morning, sliding them into “the cracks of my imperfect life,” to use Donna Ashworth’s words.

And not just poetry, either. There’s the joy of a good strong cup of tea. The morning sunshine glinting off the surface of the river. The tulips which are still surviving. And even one morning a pair of tiny birds flitting around and through the cedar trees on the other side of our fence. I stood on the deck in my slippers and robe, holding my tea cup and grinning, as they swooped and loop-de-looped and chittered and finally landed in a big spruce tree. And I went back inside feeling lighter and a bit like doing some flitting and chittering myself.

yellow and red tulips and a view of the river behind.
Our tulips hanging on for dear life.

How about you, my friends? What small moment has delivered that sliver of joy for you this spring?


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30 thoughts on “Finding that Sliver of Joy”

  1. While I am not a poetry lover I have rekindled my game of golf and being on the course when the sun is out is giving me a little bit of joy

  2. Chère Sue,
    Je ne peux que partager votre amour pour la poésie.
    Mais nos références sont si différentes !
    Et l’on ne peut lire de la poésie que dans la langue d’origine!
    Cependant les effets sont les mêmes ,les mots et les sons pénètrent notre âme et nous apaisent .Ils nous renvoient a ce qu’il y a de plus secret ,de plus intime en nous.
    Ils nous reconnectent à nous mêmes , à la nature, à la beauté cachée du monde .
    Je fais comme vous a l’autre bout du monde .Je me lève tôt et je regarde la colline en face de la maison ,j’écoute les oiseaux qui se disputent dans le vieux tilleul ,je rends visite a mes roses .La lumière du matin entre le bleu clair et le lavande pâle ,dans la fraîcheur matinale est le prémisse des bonheurs a venir.
    On peut retrouver le goût de vivre..

  3. Hi Sue,
    Yes! I’m with you about capturing those moments of joy. Lately it seems that I have had so many little joyful moments that have definitely helped me to balance those times that are not so!
    Keeping me light-hearted includes the joy of catching up with old friends and new, immersing myself in creative activities, …and the joy of a good strong pot of tea! (or a nice wine)
    A poem that I love is Mary Oliver’s, Don’t Hesitate
    (If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it…)

  4. What a lovely post and with links to follow.
    I love word, and am a very late comer to poetry, ostensibly because of Tom Ryan Author on Substack, who quotes perfect verse here and there – he’s led me to poets like Mary Oliver, and being Australian, American poets are way beyond my ken.
    There’s immense power in truncated but emotively curated words – I can imagine sitting on the porch in PJ’s reading.
    For me, joy comes in the simple act of living away from the city and walking the coast with my dog, definitely without earpods so that I can be a part of the precious world around me. At 72, I feel its a privilege.

  5. Funny you should mention poetry today Sue. What strange coincidence is this sudden attraction to poetry? I have recently been reeled in to poetry websites firstly by actress Helena Bonham Carter, reading several poems aloud on Instagram. The beauty of the well read word, the recognition of the moment described, and the plethora of poems to be enjoyed has caught my fancy and appealed to me greatly. I have decided to follow several accounts just for the random joy of new-to-me poems. I started with The Queen’s Reading Room and will look up the poets you have mentioned here. Thanks Sue!

  6. What a lovely start to my Sunday morning reading. I love poetry and Joy Comes Back is new to me. Thanks!

  7. I have seen some of the posts with Helena Bonham Cater reading poetry and find them very inspiring…poetry for me, is written art.
    I look for slivers of joy each day and embrace these special moments….i suppose they do slither :-))
    It is early here, Sunday morning, I am sitting in my cozy chair waiting for the sun to rise. Very quiet and peaceful…Instagram awaits!
    But first coffee…enjoy your mug of tea.

    Hostess of the Humble Bungalow

  8. Leslie Alexander

    Thank you for yet another wonderful post. I, too, am a lover of poetry and have a few of my Mom’ s old poetry books with little notations in the margins. Like you, she was a teacher and shared her love of poetry with her students. I just became aware that Joan Baez has a book of poetry out and I have ordered it as a gift for myself for Mother’s Day. The title is “When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance”. If that isn’t joy!

  9. This is a wonderful post; it resonates with me. Although I am only a few poems in, I am enjoying “Poetry Unbound 50 Poems to Open Your World” by Padraig O Tuama after hearing someone speak of it on “booktube”. The author gives his take before and after each poem included in the anthology. A local poet, Sam Hazo, who I have had the pleasure to meet and hear read his poems and others, says that poetry is meant to be spoken.

  10. “The most meaning for the least number of words”….what a perfect description of poetry. My late dad was an avid collector, and a prolific writer, of poetry. I never shared his affinity for it (leaning more toward novels), but I gained a far better understanding of him through his poems. He wrote of things about which he rarely spoke–his WWII experiences, his upbringing by stern and undemonstrative parents, his life in small, rural Southern towns. These are great gifts that I can open again and again.

  11. I so enjoy your blog….whether you are sharing a novel or poetry….the read is a wonderful word journey. The weather here has been steadily improving so hubs and I have been working in the yard. Spreading dirt and mulch…hanging bird feeders and enjoying being outside without long sleeves and jackets. That brings me joy right now. Quiet moments, anticipation of longer days and plants growing makes one feel blessed.

  12. I need to be in a particular frame of mind to enjoy poetry. I do, however, appreciate slivers of joy wherever they can be found. A wise person once told me that our mind operates to keep negative experiences in sharp focus to promote survival. Positive experiences tend to slip through the cracks because they don’t speak to survival so directly. But we can look for them, notice them and remember them to promote joy.

  13. Quick recommendation from a UK follower, I always enjoy following @tomreadwilson on Instagram who not only posts a wonderfully entertaining word of the day but has been reading the Shakespeare sonnets.

  14. Whenever I’m out walking with my little dog Edie, I often find myself composing haiku- just three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third. Usually something I see in nature sparks off a thought or idea and I love the discipline of keeping to the haiku rules!

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