Roger Housden is an acolyte to astonishment. We discovered this about him in Ten Poems to Change Your Life and more recently in Chasing Rumi: A Fable About Finding the Heart's True Desire. Both books aim to help us unfurl our senses and experience the marvelous wonders of yearning and transformation. In this work, Housden mines the multiple meanings of love. Most of the illustrative material comes from his own experiences with intimate relationships, romantic love, marriage, and a profound respect for mystical love of the Divine.
Housden admits to being an amateur in his appreciation of poetry, and we are grateful for that because his novice's enthusiasm keeps him from doing stodgy scholastic readings of these ten stirring poems. Or, as he eloquently puts it: "Great poetry happens when the mind is looking the other way and words fall from the sky to shape a moment that would normally be untranslatable. Great poems are icons. They capture the moment of vision and offer a doorway into realms unavailable to our daylight eyes and to our rational capacities."
In her prose poem "West Wind #2," Mary Oliver challenges us to follow our love wherever it leads. In two amazing lines, she says: "There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied." Sharon Olds concurs and in "The Knowing" celebrates the delights and transports of making love. In "The Ache of Marriage" Denise Levertov conveys the mystery of this intimate relationship, and in "Love Sonnet LXXXIX" Pablo Neruda proclaims that his love for his wife is an act of true communion. In "The Third Body," Robert Bly affirms the spiritual qualities of a union between a man and a woman. Other poems that continue the anatomy of love are "Saint Francis and the Sow" by Galway Kinnell, "Love at First Sight" by Wislawa Szymborska, "Love" by Czeslaw Milosz, "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, and "Buoyancy" by Rumi.
"Love is more like an electrical storm that a pension plan," Housden concludes. "It has scant regard for our rational intentions. When it comes, almost always unbidden, love will upset our comfortable routines. Like so much confetti, it will fling into the air all our fantasies of what our life is meant to look like." Reading Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, you'll probably find yourself marveling at all the wonders afoot in your intimate relationships. This book is a soul booster that will also tenderize your heart.