Friday, May 05, 2006

Poetry as Therapy

k: yes, this is completely and utterly separate from everything i just wrote. jarring, no? i did mention lauren’s middle-school poetry dabblings before at least. this idea of poetry as therapy was the one i had to write you about first, when i sent that email about having some idea of what to write about poetry. it is also related to my addiction to poetry.

at the undergrad conference i attended last year, i was on a panal with a young man who’s name i cannot remember for the life of me, who presented his idea of poetry as a mean of therapy. i love this. i did then and i still do now. high-school students write poetry to help themselves coop with the ever-expanding universe that is their life and to help themselves understand and interpret everything that goes on around them and inside them during that phase of their life. i did this. i know others have to. lauren wrote poems to deal with her family’s long and damning struggle with alcoholism. the guy who’s name i can’t remember, had a learning disability which prevented him from having what he thought would have been a normal childhood; thus, he created that childhood in poetry, immortalized the one he did have, made it beautiful, and wrote verse about all the things that brought him pain and struggle. he cleansed himself with his poetry.

i get the sense that ashraf the poet does this to an extent. poetry helps to alleviate something. “the lower take” is a therapeutic poem from my perspective. i was frustrated and upset so i took out a pencil and scribbled out this poem. it made me feel so much better having gotten everything i wanted to say out. i disguised it as a poem and no one has to know how much or how little is truth. poetry makes great therapy because it is camouflaged by language and art. a poet, or anyone who writes a poem, can expose themselves out-right without being too forthcoming, too overbearing. and then, in defense of oneself, the poet can dismiss any embarrassment with the argument of poetry as art, interpretive, metaphorical, purely imaginary and so on. one does not need to admit to anything in a poem. i don’t admit to very much in any of my poems. poets have so many secrets—this makes us powerful.

for me, in addition to getting any heat off my chest, poetry is also a means of relaxation and meditation. often times at work i will think poetry in my head to release me from the monotony of my current job. i think poetry when i drive, to occupy me. heh, i must sound like i’m always thinking J it’s more that i let my mind open up to what’s going on, to be inspired. the thing about hawks… my first reaction was, how does this picture fit into words? how can i do this… and the poem, the words, started to develop. it almost appeared to me like one of those 8-piece puzzles with one empty square so you can move the others around to make the picture, those sliding puzzles. i had to move the words around to make the poem in my mind, the words… hawk, rain, wing, drying, after, barn, tree… they were all there, they just needed arranging, and a few prepositions and articles.

if i’m anxious, like i was at work the other day, i can take a deep breath and set my mind and my fingers to work on something. this works for boredom too, though i haven’t felt bored in a long time thanks to you and brian and billy and all these piles of books around me. if anything, i’ve felt like there hasn’t been enough time lately.

overall, this is a simple concept. it’s just one that we haven’t talked about yet, and i think it’s important, valid, and might also work with dana’s article. poetry in the masses, the poetry of house wives, is all about therapy.

a: I so agree with you on the role of that one, perhaps even more literally than you realize. In fact, a poem ("Lazy") as a therapy assignment. When I was in therapy (about 2 years ago?) my therapist was trying to get me to do these Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercises where I have to tabulate my feelings and reactions. And I just couldn't do it. Week after week after week, he would give me these forms to fill when I sink into one of my "holes" and I would bring them back empty. Instead, I would go and write something on arch.memory. And then one day he said, Alright, write something, anything, about how you feel and bring it next time. So I wrote that. And you can even tell from certain poems from that period that he, my therapist, figures prominently as a character (most notably perhaps in "Comfortably Numb"). And many other poems (perhaps my least favorite ones, but ones that Ahmad seems to like) have been written therapeutically: to get something out of my system (ex. "Exit", and all the ones with "corpse" in the title). I don't like them because I find them too crass, too brash, too angry, too forward. I like the more obscure ones, like you say, that hide more (like "You Lie"). So, yes, I know what you mean, more than you can imagine. But that is also perhaps why most of my poems are "downers" (as Wojtek puts it) and why I find it so difficult to write "happy" poetry (I do think my poetry loves life very much, though in its own disappointed way, life as it is not as it should be). And that is perhaps why I haven't been writing as much (I actually haven't been feeling so down!). I find it very difficult to write "descriptive" poetry, too. I never enjoyed descriptive writing to begin with: the driest part of "The Thorn Birds", I thought, was that one in the middle where she goes one describing the fields endlessly... Ah, kill me! And Laura Ingalls Wilder just slew me in "Little Home in the Prairie" with her endless description... Get on with the program, woman! I guess that is also why I prefer photos of people to those of nature: far more interesting! But I digress... Which bring us to...

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