This is How You Know: a book of poetry

In This is How You Know, Rachel Toalson turns ordinary moments into poetry. Her poems about children, friendship, love, anxiety, gender expectations, fear, struggle, hope, and so much more capture everyday life with humor, irony and all the seriousness that turns poetry into a window to the world. She gives her readers the gift of presence, and hopes, in her own words, that “we find ourselves in each other.”


Have you ever heard a beautiful song or seen a lovely piece of art or read a poem that changed your day or your month or your whole life?

My favorite poem is W.H. Auden’s “In Memory of W.B. Yeats.” I still remember the day I read this poem for the first time. It was several years ago. I was in the middle of doing some intense forgiveness work, the kind that makes your head and heart hurt. His beautiful verses changed my whole perspective. He writes:

“Follow, poet, follow right to the bottom of the night, with your unconstraining voice still persuade us to rejoice; with the farming of a verse make a vineyard of the curse, sing of human unsuccess in a rapture of distress; in the deserts of the heart let the healing fountain start, in the prison of his days teach the free man how to praise.”

I still get chills when I read this poem. Auden’s words, written before I was even born, have the power to reach across decades and change a life for better. I learned that I could choose to turn my curses into vineyards, that my mind and my pen could trace a world of hurt and flip it around into something good and beautiful.

This is where each poem began; pen and paper, so I would keep pace with the words as they came to me.

This is where each poem began; pen and paper, so I would keep pace with the words as they came to me.

When I thought about recording all of my daily life poems about the ups and downs of my emotions, the annoying things my kids can do, my relationship with my husband, I wondered at first if anyone would really be all that interested. But something I’ve learned in my years of writing is that when we read an essay or a story or a poem, we will always find a piece of ourselves in it. We get to interpret it through our own eyes and our own experience. When I went back and looked at those poems I’d scribbled in a notebook I thought no one would ever see, I considered how they would resonate with normal people in their everyday lives, too.

We find ourselves in each other.

Sometimes we think that the life we’re living is so unique and unusual, and it’s true that our circumstances and the people in our lives and our reactions to our relationships and events around us are all unique. But, underneath all that, we are more alike than we know.

A Preview of Two Poems from This is How You Know

I hope that when you read these poems, you will find a piece of yourself. I hope you’ll feel less alone. I hope you’ll know that while our roads may look a thousand times different, we are, deep down, the same. Just humans trying to love well and find community and live this one life for the greatest good.