When I speak about poetry, the most common reaction from people is that poetry doesn’t speak to them. Most poetry doesn’t speak to me either even though I was brought up in a house filled with poetry.

My mother had spent her childhood learning off the classics from Chaucer to Keats and would recite them at every possible occasion. These poems and the poets spoke to her. They came alive and in turn brought her alive.

And yet, her poets never spoke to me. Indeed, few of the poems I studied in school spoke to me either, although some must have because I was inspired, as many teens are, to write my own verses.

It was only in my late 30s that I truly found some poems that cut through the noise. It took a further few years before I had a collection I could return to for solace and inspiration. In truth, building that collection is likely a lifelong quest as the messages I need to hear will change over time.

So, let me share two of the poems that I return to:

  • Start Close In by David Whyte; and
  • The Guest House by Rumi.

Start Close In is a beautiful reminder that there are times when we truly need to listen to our inner voices and focus on that first courageous step we may not want to take. Listen on YouTube!

The Guest House is in essence a celebration of life no matter what it brings. Regardless of whether this is joy, a depression or a meanness Rumi invites us to welcome and entertain them all. Listen on YouTube!

Both burrow deep into my soul and for some brief moments create such clarity that I know where I am being called.


Questions in the Image:

  • How might poetry help me see clearer?
  • How often do I read poetry?
  • Who is my favourite poet?
  • What poem speaks to me?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

David Whyte Essentials. This is a selection of David Whyte’s most beloved poems and essays, spanning more than three decades of his literary career. David’s gift is truly connecting with our souls and crafting language that goes deep into our soul.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. David Whyte’s poetry always asks questions of me. In Everything is Waiting for You, he writes “All the birds and creatures of the world are unutterably themselves“, pointing to the fact that humans are the one animal that is somewhat unsure of who it is. The question then is: How might I be more human? What does this even mean?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.