Photography by John-Mark Smith / Unsplash

Dear friends, 

Hallo to you this late September day. 

Over the summer, I had reason to contact friends, asking for help. I needed it. Some work, some pressure, some demands: nothing too much in itself, but the combination meant that I was frayed. I texted one person. I phoned someone else. I met up with someone else. Nobody had a solution. Everybody helped. 

The word help is found in a modified form (helpen) in Old English in the year 725. If you were to imagine calling out “help,” you would most likely imagine taking a breath first before you exhale that Hhhhh. Depending on your personality, it can feel like hell to ask for help. It starts off sounding like hell too, but for that explosive “p.” Hidden in it, is “me” or “us.” To hear the word “help” called out is a summons. It is a vulnerable thing to ask for help, and is something close to a sacred duty to respond, in whatever way we can. 

Partly the reason why this important word “help” has been on my mind is that as I prepared for the sixth season of Poetry Unbound (episode one, David Wagoner’s amazing poem “Lost” comes out this Monday), I realized I was gravitating towards poems that praise help, or helping, or asking, or getting it for yourself, or asserting, or requesting. Being alive is a beautiful thing, sometimes, and a burdensome thing other times, and can be somewhere in between, too. We do not comprehend the mysteries of the universe, but we know that relationships help. Our poems this season all seem to have had a common call to something in my own unconscious: make friends with help — you’ll need it, and you’ll give it. 

For us at On Being, we are interested in holding wonder in one hand and work in the other. Wonder at all we do not understand; work to support each other, help each other, learn, commit, change, and improve. For us, poetry is one of the ways we can do that: a little block of letters in the middle of a blank page can open up windows into your world, and offer help, insight, company, spaciousness, reflection, and solidarity. In solitude we can appreciate a deeper solitude. In need we can approach company.

We would love your company in this upcoming season of Poetry Unbound — in our all new conversational space on Substack, for a week of retreat, and between stanzas you can hold in your hands. More on all that below. For now, I leave you with Autumn greetings from Ireland, and the hope that your friendship with help is one that flourishes: as you give it, as you get it, as you offer it, as you open yourself to it.


Beir bua,

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Host of Poetry Unbound


Join us this Monday on AppleSpotifyGoogleOvercast, or wherever you listen.


Join the Poetry Unbound Newsletter

Poetry Unbound: Open your world with host Pádraig Ó Tuama.

As our On Being ecosystem stretches its tendrils of conversation into new corners, you can find Pádraig in our all new Poetry Unbound newsletter on Substack. Chat poetry with Pádraig and other listeners, with reflections and prompts every Sunday.


The Poetry Unbound Book Arrives Soon

Image of Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World.

Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World begins to appear on bookshelves this autumn. Each poem pairs with a fresh essay from Pádraig; each a little door opening up to the world of the poet, and the world of the reader. It’s written for friends of the podcast, for lovers of poetry, and for those who are new to it. Shared with love from all of us at Poetry Unbound, with an invitation to write the stories of your own life into the margins.


Meet Us in Rhinebeck, NY


Courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY,

Omega Center | Rhinebeck, NY
October 23-28

The lovely people at the Omega Center are hosting a Poetry Unbound retreat. Join Pádraig, together with some other members of the On Being team. We will read poetry, talk about its place in our lives, respond to some writing prompts, bask in the power and meaning and glory of language to build connection.


Poetry Unbound Book Tour Events





Wimbledon Book Festival | London

Pádraig will be in conversation with the brilliant Yousif M. Qasmiyeh at the Wimbledon Book Festival.




Waterstones | London

Pádraig will be doing a launch event at Waterstones in Londontown, and will be joined by the brilliant Raymond Antrobus.




Waterstones | Norwich

The UK book launch continues, at Waterstones in Norwich. If you’re in the area, pick up your tickets and join the evening with Pádraig.




Books Upstairs | Dublin

If you’re in Dublin, turn up at Books Upstairs (D'Olier St, Dublin 2) to join Pádraig and others at 6pm local time.

Free, but let the folks at Canon Gate know you’re coming so they can have enough tea/wine. 




Crescent Arts Centre | Belfast

No Alibis Bookstore hosts Pádraig for a book launch at the Crescent Arts Centre. Tickets are free, but need to be reserved in advance.



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