Poetry For Emotional Support
Poetry for Emotional Support is perhaps not the first thing that you would think of. However, for centuries, the reading and writing of poetry has been considered incredibly powerful.
Poems provide a succinct snapshot of something, inducing vivid images, ideas and feelings that can have the capacity to move and affect the reader. Poetry invites a connection to the wider world and the situations of other people as well as a deeper connection within ourselves to our own thoughts, feelings and desires. As readers we can understand that others have experienced similar things to us, have had similar thoughts and struggles, we can know that we are not alone.
The United Nations has adopted World Poetry Day on 21st March. They state that:
Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.
Writing poetry can also be incredibly powerful and transformative as it encourages us to let our imagination run freely, for us to gain better access to our unconscious mind, and to express ourselves, noticing and speaking the truth within us can be incredibly freeing and impactful as we speak with our authentic voice we are better able to understand who we are.
For those wanting to write poetry but who find it hard, an article in Pscyhology Today offers a helpful exercise.
An icon in the field of writing for healing is poetry therapist and lecturer John Fox. He teaches in the California Poets in the Schools Program. One of my favorite books of his is called Finding What You Didn’t Lose. In it, he helps readers get in touch with the poetic voice within and its ability to heal. He teaches about metaphor, image, sound, and rhythm while leading readers into their inner psyches. He also provides questions that could serve as good prompts or seeds for poems, such as:
- What scares you?
- What saddens you?
- What delights you?
- What intrigues you?
- What do you appreciate about the person you are?
Using these questions as inspiration for writing poetry can help poets tap into their emotional selves. Poets and those in the helping professions often tend to be more in touch with their deepest emotions than others.
Below is a poem by Mary Oliver that I have found impactful.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
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