Even before we started these daily readings, I would label a particularly lyrical article that came across my desk this way: “Pure poetry.”

From a Times Insider column “How Poetry Shakes Up the National Desk’s Morning Meetings: A good poem can jolt our minds into thinking about the country’s most important stories in unexpected ways, our National editor writes”:

By Marc Lacey

When the National desk gets together to discuss stories, it can be a grim half-hour. We dissect natural disasters. We reconstruct mass shootings. We delve into political scandals and all manner of domestic tumult. Recently, though, we added a new feature to our morning meetings aimed at inspiring us and boosting our creativity before we embark on another long day of editing the news.

We read a poem.

I got the idea from an unlikely source: my son’s high school English teacher, Anne Baney. During parent-teacher night, she explained how she reads a poem at the beginning of every class from “Poetry 180,” an anthology of contemporary poems compiled by Billy Collins, the former poet laureate of the United States. The room turns quiet when she reads, she told us. If she ever forgets to start off the day with a poem, her students remind her. They like it.

And, it turns out, so do we.

While there was some initial eye rolling when I first suggested the idea, Morrigan McCarthy, a photo editor and former poetry major, got it. She started us off with a poem called “The Book of Hand Shadows,” by Marianne Boruch. It began like this:

An eagle and a squirrel. A bull and a sage.
All take two hands, even the sheep
whose mouth is a lever for nothing, neither
grass nor complaint. The black swan’s
mostly one long arm, bent
at the elbow but there’s always feathers
to fool with.

“The magic of poetry,” Morrigan remarked, “is that it jolts your mind into thinking about a subject or theme in an unexpected way. That’s exactly what we want to be doing on the National desk: looking every day for smart and interesting ways to tackle the most important stories in this country.”

Each new day brings a fresh jolt. Lauretta Charlton, the editor of Race/Related, our team covering race and identity, chose Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much With Us”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Just the other day, I took the editors to Harlem through Langston Hughes’s poem by that name:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?

To leaven the mood on a Friday, Julie Bloom, a deputy National editor, read a poem about a runaway bagel (“The Bagel,” by David Ignatow):

Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.

Visiting from Washington, Sabrina Tavernise, a national correspondent, read “Country Fair,” by Charles Simic, which tells the story of a most unusual dog:

If you didn’t see the six-legged dog,
It doesn’t matter.
We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.

As for the extra legs,
One got used to them quickly
And thought of other things.
Like, what a cold, dark night
To be out at the fair.

Kim Murphy, a deputy National editor and French speaker, recited by heart “Chanson d’Automne” (Autumn Song), a classic by Paul Verlaine:

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

And I go
Into the ill wind
That carries me
From here, from there,
Much like
The dead leaf.

What effect has such beautiful and rhythmical writing had upon us as journalists? Much like a good poem, that’s open to some interpretation. I believe we are more pensive every morning. I can tell by the faraway look in my colleagues’ eyes as we hear profound truths communicated sparsely and majestically.

That is the goal of our journalism, too. Even before we started these daily readings, I would label a particularly lyrical article that came across my desk this way: “Pure poetry.”

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