This has been a surprisingly busy time for me -- but I will admit that I've also had more time than usual to read.
A good friend suggested that I broaden my literary choices by reading some poetry -- and even suggested a particular poet: Padraig O Tuama. He is an Irish poet who writes primarily about what is known in Ireland as "The Troubles."
Between 1969 and 2001, over 3,500 people lost their lives in conflict within Ireland. This conflict became known as "The Troubles," and it is still called that today. That total of 3, 500 is about 2% of the population of northern Ireland -- so this conflict affected almost every single person in northern Ireland in a personal way. It is estimated that 107,000 people in northern Ireland suffered physical injury as a result of the conflict -- and it is estimated that, even today, as many as 500,000 people are affected by grief, ailments, or trauma because of "The Troubles."
According to Padraig O Tuama, there is no Irish word for "bereavement," so the word "troubles" has to suffice. Even though the word doesn't seem weighty enough for many people, the word "troubles" is plenty heavy for the Irish. To them, the word means "heart-felt-shared-sadness."
The poems in the book are powerful and eloquent. They focus not just on the grief and loss, but also on tenacity, hope, and courage.
Admittedly, I don't read much poetry. Still, I have to say that these poems have touched me deeply. Padraig O Tuama's words are a balm in today's world that is dealing with some "troubles" of its own.
Maybe even more powerful than the poetry itself is a stylistic choice that the poet makes in writing the title of each poem. He explains this in his preface: "The poem titles have spaces between each letter as a way of indicating the importance of silence, listening, grief, and the things beyond words."
So, one title is written this way: S o r r y f o r y o u r T r o u b l e s." Those spaces are no accident. Instead, the extra spaces represent "silence, listening, grief, and the things beyond words."
These days, there are so many things beyond words.
And as important as the letters and words are, the spaces might be even more important..
Those spaces, I suspect, will give us time and opportunity to be silent, to listen, to grieve, and to consider the things beyond words.