You always hear laments about how people don't respect poetry, how entertainers steal focus from literature, how poetry is meaningless in our society. This is why I love to see celebrities talking about poems on television.
Poets can be bitter butter balls. Their hearts can't see when their heart are closed. And this includes noticing all the good television programs out there.
For years I've been enjoying Oprah's Master Class series. I have about eleven of them banked up on my DVR. I finally watched the episode with Berry Gordy, Jr. I only know about Gordy Jr. from reading histories of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Michael Jackson and I've always pictured him as a kind of stern record mogul who created the unlikely but inspiring success of Motown in Detroit. Hearing him talk about his own process was fascinating. He was much more charming and self-deprecating than I anticipated. He also attributes the success in his life to a poem, specifically the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Gordy Jr. said he was under great pressure, as his father's namesake, to learn how to be a man in a big, physical sense. He said this poem taught him that there were ways to be a man mentally and it changed his life.