Posted on: 11 December 2023
Rachel Kelly is a world-renowned speaker, best-selling writer and mental health advocate, and believes in the healing powers of poetry.
She visited One Community’s renowned Friday weekly space at Bay 20 to share poems and thoughts from her latest book ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone‘.
At the heart of One Community is connection, kindness and humanity, and Rachel’s gentle, healing talk, wove a sense of connection and belonging.
Patients from wards and the community, Well Written writers and others who have used poetry as a force to overcome, heal, and connect were in the room - already understanding the power of poetry - but the recognition that this goes beyond them and back to ancient times where poetry and medicine were connected through the God Apollo, set the scene where her journey with poetry began.
When she was suffering with depression, her mum would recite a line from Corinthians in the Bible, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness, my grace is sufficient for thee.’
Rachel said, “At the time I couldn’t see a point to what was happening to me. Hearing that phrase helped bring me back and started a desire to absorb a different narrative in my head. It was soothing and felt just like when an adult soothes a child with a repetitive phrase.”
Her mother would introduce more repetitive, soothing lines by her bedside, including a poem called Love III by priest George Herbert.
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
Rachel said, “There are two voices in the poem, the voice of love, which he personifies as God, and the voice of unworthiness - that I felt a connection to. I was feeling desperate and needed a loving voice. The dust and sin was my depression. Who made the eyes but I - when someone is unwell who can look at love, however who made our eyes but I.”
“The end is about communion and it spoke to me because my desire was to be at home with my family having a meal. Essentially this poem is the voice we can have in our heads – a compassionate one.”
Rachel felt a deep connection by knowing the feelings she was experiencing are similar to someone from the 1600's.
This poem became ever more important to Rachel when her mum died.
Rachel mention a haiku from Japan in 12 Century , The Temple Bell Stops, by Matsuo Bashō.
The temple bell stops –
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers
In this poem there is unity, denoting a presence not seen or heard but felt that is comforting for us when we experience bereavement, the love and loss that we will all encounter. Those we love may no longer be with us on earth but their presence is still felt. It is a beautiful moment of shared connection and of the infinity of love in the room and a sense of abundance.
Rachel said “If you have a poem that helps you, give it to people as a gift.”
Cate, Founder of One Community, spoke of the connections she experienced when she first read the book and shared copies as gifts to family and friends and how she felt she knew Rachel before she even met her at a workshop held by a mutual friend:
“When first I read the book, I realised how much I needed to tap into that connection of language and of the seasons of nature and life cycles and my mother’s love of Poetry which we shared, I felt so connected again to my mother, to Rachel and to her mother. I return to the book again and again, there is always magic and abundance to be found and shared with our One Community crew who are also ever expanding”
Cate added – “We have been looking forward to Rachel joining us at One Community for so long, it was an afternoon of joy, love, light, compassion, hope and humanity and of real magic”
Talking about One Community Rachel said. “Thanks for having me and making me feel so welcome. What a great bunch of people! What a buzz! What a hub of light and love and creativity of all kinds.”
Others attending wrote:
"I had a lot of fun today with the poetry workshop, it really inspired me and made me feel welcome."
“What a wonderful experience, a warm creative space, thank you so much for inspiring a sense of community I really enjoyed the afternoon Rachel Kelly was very inspiring, I shall enjoy sharing poems in the future.”
“I am so glad I came, Rachel was perfect, I loved listening to her she was very generous with her soul and spirit.”
Rachel will return for a workshop with One Community in 2024.