Poems, People and Leading Your Life by Nancy Mugele


We all need to read a romance novel once in a while, and I have just read Jill Santopolo’s More Than Words. What I picked up to read quickly last week, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law Tracy, ended up making me think about the journey of life and love for far longer than it took me to read the book.

One of the main characters says something profound early in the book that made me pause and reflect on my family and friends. “I think of people like poems,” he said. “Maybe someone’s a haiku, or a villanelle, or a cinquain, a sonnet – our length and form are predestined, but our content isn’t. And each form has its own challenges, its own difficulties, and its own beauty.”

Or, are poems like people as author Benjamin Alire Sáenz suggested in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. “Poems are like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

So true, that there are people you will never understand. And, then, there are those who you understand perfectly. Don’t tell Jim and my children, but I am going to describe them in poetry today with love. But, I better start with myself, so they will not be mad.

Although William Shakespeare made Sonnets famous, the word “sonetto” is actually Italian for “a little sound or song.” This 14 line form has held the heart of poets for centuries, especially one of my favorites, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I think this may be the metaphor for me – Italian, filled with love, a little dramatic, and a bit lyrical.

Jim is definitely Prose Poetry. Although that might seem to be contradictory, prose poems maintain a poetic quality although they appear to be written as prose. I think this describes Jim well. He is straightforward, a person of incredible integrity, and one who always tries to do the right thing. He also likes to talk, tell stories and be social. But, lest he be prose alone, he also has a soft, sensitive poetic side.

Jenna is Haiku. This form of traditional Japanese poetry follows a specific syllable pattern.

It contains three lines, with a total of 17 syllables. Haikus are usually about nature. Jenna is numbers-oriented, ordered, and matter-of-fact, and very serious about her career which is moving upward quickly. She is also our traveller who believes deeply in experiences. And, when I see her trip photographs she always manages to capture nature’s beauty.

Kelsy is a Narrative poem, and thank goodness she is. A narrative poem tells the story of an event in the form of a poem. Kelsy is the family news source, always filling us in on her puppy, her boyfriend, her job, her sister, her brother, her cousins, her lacrosse team and her friends – not necessarily in that order. She also knows everything and anything about pop culture, and can accurately answer any tv, movie or music question you have.

And James, well that one is the easiest – Free Verse – because these poems do not follow any rules. Their style is completely up to the writer. James is living his best life in Montana where he just started his own fly fishing guide business, living his life his way.

In addition to making me think about people as poems, More Than Words focuses on the eternal question – are you leading the life you were meant to lead? (Granted the heroine is involved in a love triangle, not a career choice, but that is another story.)

I decided I wanted to be a Head of School at The Head’s Network Leadership Seminar for Women fifteen years ago. Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to return to this seminar as a member of the faculty. 54 women from across the country who aspire to be school heads converged at The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, PA for a weekend retreat led by ten female Heads of School. For me, this was a full-circle event in my life, and I feel truly blessed to have been a part of this special weekend. Women uplifting women, and mentoring them along the way. I now have five mentees from schools in OH, PA and TX. I will be asking them in the months to come, are you leading the life you were meant to lead?

I am so fortunate to be leading the life I was meant to lead here in Chestertown, while serving Kent School. I wish the same for my children as they navigate life and love.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

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