Ten Poems to Open Your Heart

Ten Poems to Open Your Heart is a book devoted to love: to the intimacy of personal love and lovemaking, to a loving compassion for others, and to the love that embraces both this world and the next. This new volume from Roger Housden features a few of the same poets as his extraordinarily moving Ten Poems to Change Your Life, such as Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda, along with contributions from Sharon Olds, Wislawa Szymborska, Czeslaw Milosz, Denise Levertov, and others. Any one of the ten poems and, indeed, any one of Housden’s reflections on them, can open, gladden, or pierce your heart.

Through the voices of these ten inspiring poets, and through illustrations from his own life, Housden expresses the tenderness, beauty, joys, and sorrows of love, the presence of which, more than anything else, gives human existence its meaning.

As Housden says in his eloquent introduction, “Great poetry happens when the mind is looking the other way and words fall from the sky to shape a moment that would normally be untranslatable. . . . When the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in: this world, and also the invisible world of meaning that sustains everything that was and ever shall be.”


“Housden’s lyrical new collection brings ten great poems to life. It will provide the key to life’s best-kept secret garden . . .” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“The author of Ten Poems to Change Your Life offers personal reflections on poems about love in a slim volume best enjoyed by people who don’t ordinarily read poetry. Selections include Denise Levertov’s ‘The Ache of Marriage,’ Galway Kinnell’s ‘Saint Francis and the Sow,’ Naomi Shihab Nye’s ‘Kindness’ and Pablo Neruda’s ‘Love Sonnet LXXXIX’; while the poems approach love from different angles, they share extremely ‘accessible style and language’ (a prerequisite for inclusion) and offer an essential instruction to ‘Wake up and Love!’ Housden follows each poem with an enthusiastic and often treacly discussion in which stories from his life weave in and out of a sort of basic emotional exegesis: Kinnell’s poem will ‘give you the feeling of wanting to live large again on the canvas of you life,’ while with Neruda’s, ‘you will know the tenderness…as I knew it this morning while reading this sonnet…to my wife in bed.’ This is a warm-hearted volume, and an encouraging entry point for readers who generally shy away from verse.” – Publishers Weekly

“Some people like poetry, and many, claiming they don’t understand it, don’t. Housden loves it. He says poetry, like love, can open one’s heart and ‘when the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in.’ The 10 fascinating poems about love that he presents here invite opening the heart, and he primes the pump, so to speak, by opening his heart and sharing a personal interpretation of each poem. His essays are moving, revealing, and beautiful even though or maybe especially because he isn’t a poet himself. Indeed, proud of his status as an amateur–‘a word whose roots lie in the Italian amatore, a lover’–he binds love to poetry in an eternal loop. By discussing the imagery and sentiments in each poem in relation to his own loves and his life, he makes poetry accessible, helps others relate it to their lives, and makes them feel they would like to read more. Good inspiration to read more poetry and also, perhaps, to write out one’s feelings about it.” – Donna Chavez, Booklist

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