What happens when you merge the power of the word with the language of the soul? Poetry is the language of the soul. It speaks the mysteries, the silence, the unnamable joys and sorrows of the inner life that can be told in no other way. When you read a poem you love and speak it aloud, you bring every level of who you are—your thoughts, your words, your feelings, and even your physical energies—into alignment with what matters most to you. You are receiving and giving voice not only to the poem, but also to your own soul.

For many years, I was afraid of poetry. I felt as though it was a secret language that belonged to an elitist club, which I had not been invited to join. Though I loved poetry as a child, my experience in high school had stifled my spark. Analyzing the dactylic hexameters of The Odyssey or the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet did not seem particularly relevant as I made my first forays into puberty!

Twenty-five years later, in the midst of a suicidal depression, poetry poured back into my life, touching me in a way no spiritual or psychological teaching had been able to—and literally saving me. The healing did not come through writing poems or even through reading them. It came when I discovered that taking a poem I loved deeply into my life and speaking it aloud caused a profound integration of every aspect of me—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I felt a wholeness I had never before experienced. I felt like I was flying. I was speaking the truth, and the truth was setting me free.

For the first time, I had found the voice of my soul.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I invite you to take a poem into your life as a healer and teacher. I realize that for many of us, finding a poem we connect with among the millions we don’t is no easy task. Even today, I do not relate to much of the poetry I read. However, there is a breed of poetry that, for me, has been more powerful than any therapy, religion or medicine I have ever known. I think of it as the poetry of the inner life. Some of my favorite such poets are Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hafiz, Lalla, Mirabai, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Sharon Olds, Galway Kinnell, Marie Howe and Naomi Shihab Nye.

How do you find a poem that speaks the language of your soul? If you are reading these words, it is possible that you and I are similar, and the poems I love will also speak to you. In the back of my book, Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words, there is a list of 50 of my favorite poems. There are also several wonderful anthologies listed in the resource section. And the CD included in the book features poems read and discussed by inspired visionaries such as Dr. Christiane Northrup, Andrew Harvey, Joan Borysenko and Thomas Moore.

You only need one poem. Or even a few lines you love. Take that poem into your life as a companion. Don’t turn the page once you’ve read it. Read it again. Read it out loud to yourself and feel how the phrasing and rhythm of the poem affect the breath and pulsations of your body. Read it like a prayer before you go to sleep and upon waking. Notice how it changes the texture of your nights and mornings. Write it out and carry it around in your pocket to read again and again – on the bus, in line at the supermarket, stuck in traffic. Receive the poem’s gifts as it illuminates undiscovered realms within you. And give the poem the gift of a home in your particular humanness. If you do this, that poem can become a friend that is always with you, touching and changing every moment of your life.

Kim Rosen, MFA and author of Saved by a Poem, is a spoken-word artist, a teacher of self-inquiry, and an award-winning poet.