Poetry out of the dark
"More than "curing" or "solving" particular problems, communicating truth in the spare lines of a healing poem gives life to a healthier spirit."
— John Fox
I had a dark winter this year, darker than most. My father had died 6 months earlier and I had read that 6 months could be the point where the denial wears thin. I was sitting in the chair by the window looking east over the mountains, which were sprinkled with patches of snow. It is a beautiful view and a place of sanity for me, in the midst of what felt like insanity. I was musing about all the emotional suffering in the world. My own and what seems to be the human condition.
I was wondering about how to turn what feels like meaningless suffering into something with meaning, and how to turn sadness into happiness. As my thoughts wandered through the halls of wisdom I had come to know over the years, from positive thinking, to exercise, bodywork, energy work, healing of all kinds, I landed on a simple question; what did I do to survive when I was in high school, which had been another dark time?
Poetry. It came to me at first as a funny idea. I remembered the kind of teenage dramatic poetry I wrote, "Tears like blood…" but it worked then. It gave me a way to create meaning out of my pain. It was much more helpful to write a poem than just feel rotten. It was also romantic and artsy, creative. The fantasy of being a poet was much more interesting than the fantasy of being nothing.
I recently decided to write a poem a day for 30 days. It's been over 2 months now and I am still writing a poem a day. It has been transformational. After I wrote my first poem I felt a sense of accomplishment and peace that I hadn't felt in a while. Then after two weeks I started to feel much better in general. And now I am excited about poetry and my life in ways I never thought I'd feel. Poetry gives life mythic dimension, from the self to the universal.
I found the poems helped me move through grief and appreciate the years I had with my father. It has helped resolve conflicts with my loved ones as well as inner conflicts. The poems have unleashed a creative wisdom that had been locked up inside. I write poems about everything from my dog to death, love, anger, joy, the beauty of this planet and the divine.
I like the compost analogy. My journal is where I dump the food waste and the poetry is how I turn the soil, adding earth worms, grass clippings, hay to create rich fertile nourishing soul food.
This is the first stanza of one of my first poems about the day my father died. It flows through feelings, memories and deep appreciation for him. Even now as I read it again, it soothes my heart and brings a smile to my face. It is the final gift he gave me.
My father says goodbye
He kisses me on the cheek
He is trying to say
His final words
His hands gesture
With thoughts on his
After I had written for about three weeks, I decided I wanted to share the alchemical power of poetry with others. I approached a friend of mine and told her about my idea to create an e-class to inspire people to write a poem a day. She immediately joined the vision. We have been creating ever since and now invite everyone to participate in A Poem A Day For the Month of May. This class is not a technical poetry class, it is for all who want to play, dig deep and transmute their inner sludge into gold.
For more information see annbarton.org/a-poem-a-day-for-31-days. Ann Barton MA, CTACC, Growth to Gratitude Counseling and Life Coaching, has an international private practice seeing clients in her office in Ashland, or via the internet.
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