What IS the color purple?

Aster Copyright 2012 Janet Hovde

Copyright 2012 Janet Hovde

I confess to being fairly ignorant and inexperienced in the world of poetry. Although I am an avid library patron, I rarely think to check out a book of poems. Recently, I signed up for the May Women’s Weekend Retreat, a studio art class inspired by the Women’s Art Institute of Minneapolis/St.Paul. The recommended class reading list includes two books of poetry by Mary Oliver.

Well, all right, I thought, I’ll try reading poetry. Surprise! It was much more than an intellectual process of reading words. Many of my senses were fed by the images created in my mind while reading her poems. I came more fully into my senses and into my body—it was a much more physical process than I expected. Plus it helped me experience being in the present moment . . . something which can be a challenge for me.

So, I’ve been experimenting. Lying in a warm bathtub of water recently, body relaxing, mind floating . . . I wondered what it would be like if I was IN a poem right now. I noticed how I touch the bottom of the faucet with my right big toe to catch the slow, cool drip. I notice the two arced lines on the faucet knob, a red one on the left and a blue one on the right. Pondering, if red is hot, and blue is cold, what is the color of lukewarm?

Maybe not profound . . . but it enriched my life in the moment, and makes me smile right now. Purple means lukewarm?

How about you—if you lived in a poem, what might you notice right now? And what is your experience with poetry? Any favorites?


  1. Oh, what a delicious thought. Everything would sing around me if I lived in a poem. The richness of every object, person, experience would become more and more alive through the descriptors chosen. I do enjoy poetry and will be mindful of my experiences this weekend and how this would show up in my life. How fun!

  2. I can so relate about finding it challenging to quiet my mind. I don’t read poetry, never thought of it actually. I truly appreciate you sharing here with us your experience and how it really brought you in the moment. Certainly I can take a few minutes and try that myself. 🙂
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  3. Hi Janet,

    I love that visual description. I am, like you, an avid library patron. My daughter practically lives there in the summer time. As for the poetry, I can vividly remember in college doing some writing course where I had to work with poetry and I so delighted in the poems that I found. I used to write a lot of poetry when I was in high school, but have really gotten away from it. Thanks for the gentle reminder.
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  4. I love that you looked at a life moment through the lens of poetry – how fun! I’m a huge poetry fan, and a day doesn’t pass without me reading some. I have to say Mary Oliver is a perfect introduction into looking at the natural world with fresh appreciative eyes, and I’d be surprised if you don’t count yourself a fan by the end of two volumes of her work. Your upcoming retreat sounds wonderful – I hope you’ll share more about it.

    • Deborah, I was pretty sure poetry would be a regular part of your life. I do expect I will have something to share after my art weekend in May. 🙂

  5. Janet, I am warming to poetry too. Mary Oliver’s seems so accessible, don’t you think? It’s mindfulness wrapped in words.

  6. I was drawn to this post because of the title. Lately I am so into purple. And talking of floating in a bath and immersing myself in a poem. Such image inducing words. Thank you so much.
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  7. Janet,
    What wonderful thoughts! I have to admit that I am not one for poems either although it does sound very romantic. I loved your experiment!

  8. I have always loved reading poetry and I have just recently started writing it. It really is like painting with words. Letting the words dance and twirl, feeling the music and color of the words. Another wonderful way to experience beauty.

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