The Japanese have a concept called ‘yutori’ – an idea that connotes a sense of spaciousness, elbowroom, leeway, reserve, margin, allowance, latitude… time.
From a conversation with her Japanese student, poet Naomi Shihab Nye explains,
It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.
[The Japanese student] gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her. But one of them was: “After you read a poem, just knowing you can hold it — you can be in that space of the poem, and it can hold you in its space, and you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”
Shihab Nye relates this to poetry when she continues:
I think that’s the essence of — a kind of exchange is what poetry is interested in too: the feeling that you’re not battered by thought in a poem, but you are sort of as if you’re riding the wave of thought; as if you’re allowing thought to enter. You’re shifting. You’re changing. You’re looking. You are in a sensibility that allows you that sort of mental, emotional, spiritual interaction with everything around you. I think it’s very, very helpful for mental health, actually.
I really wonder, sometimes, what it would be like to live without that apprehension that you could have a thought, shape a thought, change a thought, look at the words in a thought — that you could take a word and just use that word — I think I’ve said this 40 years ago in a poem — use a single word as an oar that could get you through the days just by holding a word, thinking about it differently, and seeing how that word rubs against other words, how it interplays with other words. There’s a luxury in that kind of thinking about language and text, but it’s very basic, as well. It’s simple. It’s invisible. It doesn’t cost anything.
When Shihab Nye says “Your life is a poem“, she may not realize how she borrows from Christian thought, “for we are God’s poems (poiema ~ ποιημα) created in Christ Jesus to inspire good art” (my paraphrase of Ephesians 2:10).
What is the poem your life is inspiring?