Housden has a vision, one that involves an evolution of the spirit through the works of poets - in this case, ten selected in a collection To Set You Free. Along with his own interpretations in chapters immediately following the selected poems, Housden offers the voices of David Whyte, Jane Hirschfield, Miguel de Unamuno, Rumi, Thomas Merton, Jane Oliver and more.
For those intimidated by poetry or who feel the need for a “spirit” guide in personalizing these messages, the author illustrates each example with contemporary applications, text and subtext, the poet’s words reflecting the meaning for our lives. In his interpretations, Housden delves into the other writings of the chosen poets, the general themes of their work and why these ten poems offer a definitive way to “integrate the poet’s truths into our own lives.”
Following David Whyte’s “Self-Portrait,” Housden’s “Look in the Mirror” suggests that Whyte’s poem is a personal wake-up call to the individual. Like most of his writing, Whyte “champions the truth of the soul over the clamor of the social personality” and calls us to envision our better selves in furtherance of the world at large.
Housden’s “Recover Your Spirit” is preceded by Miguel de Unamuno’s “Throw Yourself Like a Seed.” The author lifts Unamuno’s words and his incredible bravery at a time of great turmoil on the world stage and brings them to the fertile ground of our more modern concerns, the small decisions that move us away from personal commitment, denying our finest selves. Unamuno died shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, firmly believing to the end that “at times to be silent is to lie.” An enemy of Franco and his fascism, the poet spoke to the great themes of the human spirit, a call to courage and integrity, even against the most disheartening odds.
Certainly Rumi, Merton and Mary Oliver are familiar poets, but each of the ten has a powerful message on the evolution of the spirit, the challenge to integrate that knowledge into our daily lives. Combining the fluidity of chosen poems and his considered comments, the author calls us to attend to personal potential, the opportunities for spiritual growth and the evolution of the soul that is a by-product of self-reflection.
While not everyone wants, or needs, a guide through these works, there are many who welcome the insights provided in such a book, especially their application in an individual context. Housden’s Ten Poems to Set You Free is a first step into a rewarding future, where personality, sense of purpose and soul are fully integrated: “We are able to be the one we do not know. This is the greatest freedom available to us as human beings.”