Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry
by Betsy Small


Outskirts Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-432-73434-3.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 06/27/2011

Anthologies/Collections; Poetry; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Early in the morning, late at night, in quiet times and busy—there is a poem for the moment. Betsy Small, a practicing yoga teacher as well as a professional musician, has combined her skills and talents to bring together an array of works from across the globe and across time. Her well-accomplished goal, she tells us in the introduction, is to offer the works of poets who share their "experiences of living joyfully in the moment..."

The selection of authors speaks to Small's arduous efforts to reflect the world: generally know names like Mary Oliver, Sara Teasdale , May Sarton, and e.e. cummings join the less familiar Dogen Zenji, Uvanuk, and Zagajewski. Despite the variety, each selection speaks to a moment.

Reflecting the author's yoga background and designed by her to be used as part of yoga practice (savasana), the anthology will have a broader appeal. Any person who relishes her life, her days, will find moments to appreciate, from the majesty of the earth and her creatures (Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese," Wendell Berry's "Sabbath Poem") to the mundane busyness of daily life, finding glory in washing a wine glass, seeing crockery as a mandala, or letting in a cat to dine and share a bed (May Sarton's "New Year Resolve").

Small suggests that a "reader can savor poems individually, as integral elements of sets, or as part of the entire collection, which can be read in one sitting as a poetic essay consisting of linked sets." I chose to do the latter, grabbing my book and heading for a nearby park where I could sit on the ground beneath an old oak tree.

I recommend the experience. The intertwining of the emotions of the selections is powerful. But once, or, at least, once in a while, is probably enough. For the most part, I plan to keep the book on my reading table where I can often reach out for a poem that allows me to find joy in the moment at hand.


Betsy Small is a professional musician; she is both a teacher of lute and guitar and a performer. She is also the author of a musical play, "Chrystal's Journey." She teaches a variety of yoga classes including Yoga Nidra and Yoga for Seniors. Mother of two grown daughters, she lives in Washington D. C. You may visit her and learn more on the book's website.

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