Learning how to live a “pointless” life, thanks to poetry


Accepting that life does not always need to have a point: here is what I have been working on, for the past few months. It has been difficult to accept that not everything I do needs a purpose. It’s alright if I am not constantly productive and efficient. Days without any accomplishments are okay.

Of course, depending on your personality and your work environment, you might not relate to this feeling at all. However, having worked for 3 years in the start-up industry, and then switched to being a full-time Master student, I have always had this little voice in the back of my head, whispering: “You are not working hard enough. Your time would be better spent doing this or that.”

I have brought this mindset in every aspect of my life. Some days, I even listen to podcasts and answer e-mails while brushing my teeth, as to not “waste” any minute. Naturally, this meant that for a while, I have been reading a lot of non-fiction books. I fell for the trap of “self-improvement”, and hoped to entertain myself doing so.

Spoiler alert: it did not work.

I am not necessarily against non-fiction novels, some of them can be truly fascinating and enlightening. However, I do not find them entertaining. And sometimes one needs to be entertained, don’t you think?

Last year, I wrote an article about the benefits of reading science fiction, because simply enjoying the story is enough – here’s why everyone should read science fiction. That’s when I realized that I was still trying to find a point to my daily activities. Reading science fiction allowed me to unwind, dive into a new universe and forget everything about my own worries. It made me more creative and imaginative. It had a purpose.

But what about truly “pointless” activities?

I used to love poems, as a kid. I read classic French poetry and re-wrote the most meaningful sentences on papers that I would pin on my bedroom’s walls. As I grew up, I categorically stopped. I did not have literature classes anymore and there wasn’t any boys interested in my own poetry, so, really, what was the point of it all?

To be honest, I am still resisting my natural impulse, this little voice in my head telling me that reading poetry is not really useful. And, indeed, it may not have a point: it does not necessarily teach you anything in particular, it does not allow your imagination to wonder very far, and, as opposed to books like A Game of Thrones, you cannot wildly debate about it with your friends at a party (without the risk of appearing like a massive snob).

When it comes to poetry, it is about enjoying the moment. And that is enough.

Recently, I bought “Milk and Honey” from Rupi Kaur and “The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One“, written by Amanda Lovelace. Both are fantastic books dealing with female anger, trauma, power and pain. I have spent the past few days reading them, slowly, and enjoying every second of it.

I might not have learned much from these books, but the simple beauty and truth that I found in the words have been enough. Here’s a selection of the poems that have touched me the most:

Amanda Lovelace, The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One:

this is
an overdue
love letter
to each
& every
who walked
these fields
before me
the path
soft enough
for me to
walk through
to get to
the side
they could
never reach.

for that,
i owe you
so much.

– but I owe some things to myself, too.

Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey:

What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn?

that since day one. she’s already had everything
she needs within herself. it’s the world that
convinced her she did not.

Finally, it is impossible to write about poetry without discussing my favorite author, Mary Oliver, who passed away very recently. Her work has touched me more than I could explain. Last year, I wrote an article about “Devotions“, a book gathering most of the poems that she wrote over the years. If you are interested, read my article here.

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Comments (3)
  1. Marysa Writes 1 year ago

    I apologize for this, but you might like the poetry compilation I am releasing on the 9th. Here’s a link to a brief description 🙂 https://marysawrites.wordpress.com/my-book/
    And poetry really allows you to feel, and I think that’s worthy of reading. And if you buy the books, you can always return to the poems, they never really lose their meaning. Never tell yourself they’re not worth reading, it’s a bit insulting to those who write, and read, yourself included. We don’t want that 😉

    • Pauline Massé 1 year ago

      Hey Marysa, thank you for your comment! Absolutely agree with you, there is meaning in poems, and they are definitely worth reading – never said otherwise 🙂 What I am saying is that they don’t necessarily have a “point”, perhaps you don’t need to find a meaning while reading them, maybe just read them and enjoy your time doing so!

      • Marysa Writes 1 year ago

        I think the ‘point’ is mostly to evoke emotion, or connect with emotions being portrayed. If this is the argument, you could argue that fictional reading has no point either, just a wonderful pastime. Either way, I think it’s worthy of time wasting 🙂

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