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.