Only you can create the poetry of your retirement

older male and female embrace and with novel volume;

Image: Goami/

Poetry? Of your retirement? Regular writing—including creative writing—tends to follow logic, a certain theme and has a beginning and end. Poetry is different.

Aristotle (384—322 BC) described the difference in this way: ‘The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse . . . the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be’.

What might your retirement be?

No one else can do it for you

Only you can create the poetry of your retirement because you are distinctly you. What started me on this theme was reading a report where computers were tasked to use artificial intelligence to write poetry. It didn’t work out well.

For instance, in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, the first four lines are as written by Shakespeare, the rest by computer.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date

And the grass is green and the trees are full of fruit.

And, when the sky is blue and the heat is blazing,

And the rain is falling upon the fields and the trees,

But the sun is downcast as when it is rising,

And the sky is covered with clouds and the land is shrouded by fog,

And the sky is not bright to behold yet:

Thou hast not a thousand days to tell me thou art beautiful.

It isn’t hard to tell the original Shakespeare from the rest. And that’s the point really, you need to be you in your retirement. Learn from others, of course, but you need to create your own poetry.

Thinking outside the square

Being creative is about not discounting any possibilities, but with a touch of reality where needed. For instance, you may never reach the top of Mt Everest, but you can probably trek in Nepal.

You could start with the ‘if onlys’. These are the opportunities you wish you had taken. Those music lessons you didn’t take. Why not now? The work or study opportunity you didn’t follow up on—is it time to become an entrepreneur or go to university? The time you didn’t spend with people, why couldn’t this be your focus?

Or why not break out and become proficient at something you’d like to do, but have never tried: photography; windsurfing; snake catching.

Create your own poetry for your retirement.

Making poetry is a creative process: it’s ‘the language of the imagination and the passions’ (William Hazlitt); ‘the language in which man explores his own amazement’ (Christopher Fry); ‘man’s rebellion against being what he is’ (James Branch Cabell). All quotations about poetry come from here.

Will the poetry find you?

In Winnie-the-Pooh, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, you’ll find this piece of advice: ‘Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is go where they can find you’.

Where do you have to: be; do; research; whatever; for the poetry of your retirement to find you?

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude, Creativity, Emotional Health, Retirement

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