Like many people you may have a love-hate relationship with your phone. On the one hand it gives you a world of information, entertainment and diverting pastimes at your fingertips.
But it can also be addictive and feel like a waste of time – when you find yourself cycling through your news and social media feeds, you can end up feeling anxious, unfulfilled and annoyed with yourself.
The phone fills the gaps in the day, but it can leave you feeling empty. It offers instant gratification but creates dissatisfaction.
But what else can you do? If you only have a few minutes between meetings or tasks, you don’t have time to read a book or watch a movie or exercise or have a proper conversation with a friend. Checking your phone is quick and easy.
Here’s a novel suggestion for you:
Pick up a poem instead of your phone.
Like your phone, a poem is something you can pick up and read in a minute or two.
But unlike your phone, it won’t leave you unsatisfied.
It can take you somewhere mind-blowing in a few short lines.
It can rearrange your thoughts.
It can make you laugh, or cry, or catch your breath.
It can give you a fresh perspective on your own life, or an insight into someone else’s experience.
It can transport you on a flight of fancy.
And a good poem will stay with you – a line can lodge in your mind like the chorus of a song.
And like a song, you can experience it over and over and find something new in it each time.
A poem can fit into your day the way your phone fits your pocket.
It can can fill a gap in your day and leave you feeling that you got something worthwhile from it.
You read a book of poems bit by bit, nibbling at it like a good cheese, or sipping it like a fine whisky.
Over the course of a week, you could read a whole slim volume by a contemporary poet.
Over a month, you could read an anthology.
Bit by bit, poem by poem, your world can grow bigger and richer.
If you like that idea, here are some practical tips to get you started.
Firstly, I recommend you don’t read poems on your phone or tablet. Poems get squashed on a screen and you don’t get the full experience.
Also, there are too many other distraction on your phone. You already associate it with a certain state of mind – scattered, distracted, impatient – that is antithetical to appreciating poetry.
So get an actual book, and keep it within reach – on your desk, by your bed, by your favourite chair in the living room. Or in your handbag or briefcase.
Better still, get several books and keep them in all these places, so you always have a poem within reach.
If you don’t know where to start, get an anthology, which will give you lots of poems by different poets. And once you find a poet you like and you want to read more, then look for a ‘selected poems’ edition of their work – this will give you their best work in a single volume.
Once you’ve got your book, train yourself to pick up a poem instead of your phone.
Start by trying to notice the urge to pick up the phone before you actually do it. It’s amazing how often I find I’ve picked up my phone without even thinking of it!
If you find yourself doing this, put the phone down immediately and pick up a poem instead. And after a few tries you should start to notice the urge before you pick up the phone – then you can pick up a poem instead.
Try this as an experiment for a week and see what difference it makes to your life.