Jenny Lawson

A Monument to the Lost

August 18, 2023

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

“Sometimes the people you love leave you even when they don’t want to and you shatter into pieces. You may not be able to find all of those pieces again because when they left they took a few with them. It hurts, but the pain eventually becomes bearable and even sacred because it’s how you carry the people you’ve lost with you. And if you’re lucky you can one day see that the hollow spots you carry are in the shape of their face or their hands or the love they gave you. Those holes ache, but they are a monument to the lost, a traveling sacred place to honor them and remind you of how to love enough to leave your own marks on others.”

—Jenny Lawson, Broken (in the Best Possible Way)

Barbara De Angelis

Love Yourself, Love Others

February 12, 2021

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.”

—Barbara De Angelis

On Valentine’s Day—and every day—don’t forget to show yourself some love. So often we don't offer ourselves the same forgiveness, kindness, or encouragement that we offer to others. These things are far more important gifts than chocolates or flowers, lovely as those things are.

 Life has been hard lately. We all deserve a little loving kindness.



Creativity and Love

May 24, 2019

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”


Open to Life, Open to Love

February 22, 2019

“If I have learned anything through the years, it is that, though we discover and experience joy with others, our capacity for joy is carried like a pod of nectar in our very own breast. I now believe that our deepest vocation is to root ourselves enough in this life that we can open our hearts to attract others; in being so thoroughly who we are, an inner fragrance is released that calls others to eat of our nectar. And we are loved, by friends and partners alike.”
—Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


Want a Lasting Relationship? Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness

February 15, 2019

Photo by on Unsplash

“The truth is, the way we can show up as our very best and offer the greatest amount of love and support to our partner is to take the complete responsibility for our own happiness, from A to Z. The purpose of a love relationship is not to fill a void, to complete us, or even to be part of the foundation for our happiness. It’s purpose is to help us grow emotionally and spiritually and to enhance an already, full, happy life. This is a key standpoint from which joyful, lasting relationships survive, thrive, and grow.”


Instead of Pursuing Love and Happiness…

February 08, 2019

Photo by Conor Luddy on Unsplash

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
— Rumi

Food for thought: Substitute the word “happiness” for the word “love.” Do you (I) put up barriers against love and happiness? How can we be more open?



February 16, 2018

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: It seems that love poems have a better chance of being passed around from person to person than other poems, and here’s one by Richard M. Berlin, who lives in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, that we’d like to pass along to you.

Einstein’s Happiest Moment

Einstein’s happiest moment
occurred when he realized
a falling man falling
beside a falling apple
could also be described
as an apple and a man at rest
while the world falls around them.

And my happiest moment
occurred when I realized
you were falling for me,
right down to the core, and the rest,
relatively speaking, has flown past
faster than the speed of light.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Richard M. Berlin from his most recent book of poems, Secret Wounds, BkMk Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Richard M. Berlin and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


The Trace That Stays

March 22, 2017

Photo courtesy janeb13

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Marge Saiser is a Nebraska poet about whose work I have said that no contemporary poet is better at writing about love. Here's a love poem from her new book, I Have Nothing to Say about Fire, from Backwaters Press.

The Print the Whales Make

You and I on the boat notice
the print the whales leave,
the huge ring their diving draws
for a time on the surface.
Is it like that when we
lose one another? Don't
know, can't. But
I want to believe
when we can no longer
walk across a room
for a hug, can no longer
step into the arms of the other,
there will be this:
some trace that stays
while the great body
remains below out of sight,
dark mammoth shadow
flick of flipper
body of delight
diving deep.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Marjorie Saiser, “The Print the Whales Make,” from I Have Nothing to Say about Fire, (Backwaters Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004- 2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Only Love Can Do That

February 15, 2017

Photo courtesy Joshua Hibbert

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.


Labor (of Love) Day

September 05, 2016

Today is Labor Day in the United States, a day “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” I’ll be spending it caring for my horse, checking in on a vacationing friend’s cats, making a birthday cake for my son, and puttering around the house doing chores that make our lives run smoothly and happily. My husband is grilling chicken and shrimp, my mother-in-law is visiting, and my son will be stopping by later to eat that cake (and probably do some laundry). We spent the first two days of this three-day weekend painting our bathroom and cleaning up after Hurricane Hermine (no damage, just a lot of debris in the yard). This hasn’t been a textbook example of a “relaxing” weekend, but it has been one full of family, food, and many of the simple pleasures that bring me deep satisfaction.

Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it brings you joy!

Storm debris: Eleven bags, two trash cans and a branch (not visible)


End of a Summer Day

July 13, 2016

Photo courtesy Maurice Muller

Introduction by Ted Kooser: We hope that you will visit, from time to time, our archived columns at, where you may find other poems by the poets we feature. Today's is the third we've published by Sharon Chmielarz. a Minnesota poet with several fine books in print, including The Widow's House, just released by Brighthorse books.

Fisher’s Club

A roadside inn. Lakeside dive. Spiffed up.
End of a summer day. And I suppose
I should be smiling beneficently
at the families playing near the shore,
their plastic balls and splashes and chatter.

But my eye pivots left to a couple;
he is carrying her into the water.
He's strong enough, and she is light
enough to be carried. I see
how she holds her own, hugging
his neck, his chest steady as his arms.

I have never seen such a careful dunk,
half-dunk, as he gives her. That beautiful
play he makes lifting her from the water.

And I suppose I should be admiring
the sunset, all purple and orange and rose now.
Nice porch here, too. Yeah, great view.

But I have never seen such a loving
carrying as he gives her. Imagine

being so light as to float
above water in love.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Sharon Chmielarz, “Fisher's Club,” from The Widow's House (Brighthorse Books, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Sharon Chmielarz and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Love Many Things

February 03, 2016

Photo courtesy krrass
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
—Vincent Van Gogh


Grief Is the Price We Pay For Love*

October 30, 2015

 “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
—Anatole France

I have sad news to share today.  We lost our little dog, Scout, last Saturday, and we are deep in sorrow. She was 16 ½ years old. I apologize to those of you I know personally if I haven’t shared this news with you directly. It’s because I haven’t been able to face talking about it with you—I cry every time I have to share the news. 

The past six months have been difficult. Scout was deaf; almost blind from cataracts; suffered from terrible nasal allergies that made her sneeze, wheeze and cough; and she had “doggy dementia.” She rarely made it through a night without getting up to relieve herself, and afterward she often wandered through the house, getting stuck behind toilets, doors, and pieces of furniture. She occasionally got lost in the backyard she patrolled for so many years and had to be rescued. She required medicating several times a day and became agitated if her routine was disturbed. At the same time, she ate well, bounced around the house a little every day, and there was life in her eyes. We knew her days were numbered and tried hard to make them comfortable and happy. She deserved it.

Scout's the one licking his face
Scout came home with us as an eight-week-old puppy after “choosing” Nick (we’d intended to bring home a different puppy from the litter, but she followed him around and he fell in love with her). The two of them were best buddies from day one. Once she was house trained, she slept in his bed with him at night. They dug holes together and swam in the pool, and she joined in any game in which he was participating. She knew several tricks, including sit, shake hands, roll over and play dead—dropping onto her side if you pointed your index finger at her and said, “Bang!”—though sometimes you had to “shoot” her several times. She caught and killed plenty of squirrels and snakes, including more than one coral snake. (In a way, we were surprised she didn’t meet an untimely end since she was a typical Jack Russell Terrier—a tough little dog with a big dog’s attitude.) She received Christmas presents and birthday parties, just like the member of the family she was. The last few years of her life, she finally slowed down and preferred snoozing in her own dog bed to sleeping with a human, and spent more of her daylight hours sleeping than playing.

We are each coping in our own ways. The guys are able to leave the house to go to work every day, while I struggle with looking for her and not seeing her, with cleaning up her nose prints on the window, washing her dog bed, and disposing of all her supplements and medications. Yesterday I thought I heard her sneeze in the next room and realized it was just my imagination. I know that life will eventually feel beautiful again and that Scout’s memory won’t hurt anymore. Right now, though, thinking of her is equal parts love and pain.

Scout was a happy dog through her whole life, and she brought countless hours of happiness to our family. We were lucky to have each other, and we’ll never, ever forget her.

*Queen Elizabeth II


The Garden of Compassion

October 28, 2015

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”


Falling in Love With Paris Letters

April 13, 2015

Reading is like dating. There are the books you’re initially infatuated with, but become irritated by as the relationship progresses. There are the books you should love because they’re perfect for you, but you just can’t seem to connect. There are the books you love secretly because they’re no good, and you’d be embarrassed if your friends knew. There are the fix-ups, the “meet cutes,” the love-at-first-sights, and the long-term relationships that grow stronger over time. For me, Janice MacLeod’s Paris Letters was an immediate friendship that grew into love. However, it was a romance that almost never happened.

See below for downloadable stationery*

I initially requested Paris Letters from the library thinking it was a book of artwork, the painted letters from Paris referenced in the title. When it turned out to be memoir, I nearly took it back, because do I really need to read another story of a woman simplifying her life, jetting off to see the world, and finding herself and/or true love? I mean, I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love and many other stories both fictional and non- of that ilk. Still, I decided to read the first few pages just to see…and I connected with MacLeod immediately. I liked her turns of phrase and casual voice. She seemed approachable, down-to-earth, real.  Somehow, this story of a 30-something vegan copywriter who goes to Paris and unexpectedly falls in love with a French-speaking Polish butcher resonated with me.

For MacLeod, it all started with a New Year’s resolution in 2010. She wanted to become an artist, and began journaling nearly every day, following Julia Cameron’s instructions regarding Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way. “Really, I just wanted to create something that made me feel good, because what I was currently creating definitely did not,” MacLeod writes.  What was she creating? Junk mail.

After two months of journaling and complaining about her job, a question emerged: “How much money does it take to quit your job?” In discussing it with a friend, she chose the figure of $100 a day (partly because of the easy math!) multiplied by how many days she did not want to work (at least one year). She spent the next year selling, saving and being vigilant about where her money went, eventually saving $60,000! It helped that she had a good job and was successful investing in the stock market. She quit her job in December with the plan of traveling the world and writing about it. When her money ran out, she would decide what to do next.

The rest of the book follows her journey to Paris, the UK, Italy…and back to Paris to be with “the lovely Cristophe.” She writes humorously about her struggles to communicate with Cristophe, the daunting paperwork required for her visa, and the challenges of (spoiler alert) planning a wedding in a foreign country. The title of the book comes from her unique solution for refilling her dwindling bank account: she would write and illustrate an original letter from Paris, and make personalized copies to sell. (At the time the book was printed, she had sent out more than 10,000 painted letters about life in France.) Some chapters end with copies of her Paris letters, illustrated in black and white (an unfortunate decision made by her publisher). She also includes a list of 100 ways she saved or didn’t spend her $100 a day. You can see (and subscribe to) her illustrated letters here.

Paris Letters was a happy read—and so far, one of my favorite books of 2015.

Have you “dated” any good books lately?

*Click here to download the stationery pictured beneath the book.


Me, Too

January 28, 2015

“Acceptance isn’t stagnation—you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”
—Leo Babauta

Ada V. Hendricks

The Heart of the Holidays

December 24, 2014

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.”
—Ada V. Hendricks

No matter which holiday you celebrate, I wish you a season of hope, peace and love!

David Kessler

Happiness Is Possible Today

February 12, 2014

“We insist that we can’t possibly be happy until tomorrow, when things change. But if happiness is possible tomorrow, it is also possible today. If love is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. We can find healing even if nothing changes. To surrender to life ‘as is’ can miraculously transform situations. It is in this surrender that we are able to receive. The universe gives us the tools to fulfill our destinies when we let things be.”
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living.

A Field Guide to Now

As Time Unfolds

October 02, 2013

“The heart is not a machine. It does not have the capacity to love at any greater speed, or to feel anything more deeply, when the pace is doubled. While fast is better for machines, we’re fools to live by such a rule set every day. Rushing every second, we forget that we’re capable of a certain quality of joy that can be arrived at only slowly, as time unfolds.”
—Christina Rosalie, A Field Guide to Now


This Is How It Is With Love

July 31, 2013

Poor Richard’s Almanac said, “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas,” but that hasn’t kept some of us from sleeping with our dogs. Here’s a poem about the pleasure of that, by Joyce Sidman, who lives and sleeps in Minnesota. Her book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, won a 2011 Newbery Honor Award. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Dog in Bed

Nose tucked under tail,
you are a warm, furred planet
centered in my bed.
All night I orbit, tangle-limbed,
in the slim space
allotted to me.

If I accidentally
bump you from sleep,
you shift, groan,
drape your chin on my hip.

O, that languid, movie-star drape!
I can never resist it.
Digging my fingers into your fur,
      I wonder:
How do you dream?
What do you adore?
Why should your black silk ears
feel like happiness?

This is how it is with love.
Once invited,
it steps in gently,
circles twice,
and takes up as much space
as you will give it.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2003 by Joyce Sidman, whose most recent book of poems is Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. Poem reprinted from The World According to Dog, Houghton Mifflin, 2003, by permission of Joyce Sidman and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.