April is National Poetry Month, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry and its vital role in American culture. The academy sponsors events such as the star-studded Poetry and the Creative Mind gala (April 17 at the Lincoln Center) and mass-appeal activities like Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18), when everyone is encouraged to carry a poem.
“I love April, and not just because of my birthday and all those Final Four games,” said Phoenix Suns co-owner Richard Jaffe, a successful entrepreneur and avid poet who recently published his first book of poetry, “Inner Peace and Happiness; Reflections to Grow Your Soul” (richardjaffe.net).
“We would be wise to celebrate America’s poetry because it’s an art form that does as much — sometimes even more — for the writer as the reader. Poems inspire, educate and cleanse. And now that writing has become more abbreviated with blogs, text messages, tweets and the like, the time is perfect for poetry to make a big comeback,” Jaffe said.
Jaffe, creator of Minute Maid Fruit Juices and the world’s first and best-selling powder-free hypoallergenic latex exam gloves, said writing poetry stirs his soul and fuels his entrepreneurial creativity.
“The process of exploring my thoughts and feelings and expressing them in symbolic word images exercises my creativity in a fun way,” he said. “I think it makes me sharper and, the more I explore the well of my imagination, the faster it fills again.”
Everyone would benefit from writing poetry, whether they want to share it or not. He offers five more ways everyone can benefit:
1. Improves cognitive function. Learning new words (he’s never without a Thesaurus), working out meter (math), and finding new ways to articulate thoughts and feelings (communication) are all good for the brain. Want to get smarter? Write poetry.
2. Helps heal emotional pain. Grief is one of the most painful emotions we experience, and it’s also the source of some of the world’s most inspirational poetry, Jaffe said. “When I have experienced a profound loss, the act of putting my feelings into words or memorializing and paying tribute to those who I lost is extremely cathartic,” he said.
3. Leads us to greater self-awareness. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to just sit and aimlessly ponder the meaning of our lives or what makes us deeply happy. Writing poetry gives us a constructive way to do that. Not only does it help us explore and gain insight, we have something to show for all that “inner reflection” when we’re done.
4. Provides a gift of inspiration or education to others. One thing we know — we are not alone. “Universal questions, fears and emotions are called ‘universal’ because everyone, no matter what country or culture they’re raised in, experiences them,” Jaffe noted. Once we’ve done the work of exploring and finding our own answers, we can help others by sharing them. “I like to share my poem ‘Eternal Happiness’ because it describes what I’ve found to be the source of my own eternal happiness,” he said.
5. Celebrate! For some things, balloons and cake just don’t suffice. “Proposing to my wife, the births of my children, their bar and bat mitzvahs, falling in love — these were among the most emotionally powerful, joyful times of my life,” Jaffe said. “Thanks to the poems I wrote at the time to capture those feelings, I can experience them again and again.”
If you’ve never tried your hand at poetry, Jaffe encourages you to give it a go in April. You can share your poem with him by tweeting a link to @rbjaffe or posting to his Google+ group, “Inspirational Poetry,” tinyurl.com/b49ua25.
Jaffe is one of the owners of the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns, a successful business leader and longtime philanthropist. Most recently the CEO of Safe Life Corp., a medical technology company, he also founded Safe Skin Corp., a latex glove manufacturer (acquired by Kimberly-Clark Corp.) and Nutri-Foods Intional, a frozen dessert company (sold to the Coca-Cola Co.) He is a member of the U.S. Golf Association’s presidents council and a supporter of numerous charitable projects. His first published book of poetry, “Inner Peace and Happiness,” is a reflection of the values and lessons learned in business and in life. He and his wife of 28 years, Ann, are the proud parents of three grown children.