Re-Imagining Poetry as a Healing Tool
Almost everybody writes. Almost everybody identifies themselves as a writer. This is the beauty of writing, the power of words. It could be a work of fiction, a poem, an article or a page in someone’s diary — almost everyone must have written something or the other over time.
Words bring solace to the writer. Words bring comfort to the reader.
There is an unknown magic understood by writers who write poetry and readers who read them. Poetry allows the writer to share wounds inflicted upon them without explicitly mentioning the incident. Poetry allows the writer to confess their inner workings without explicitly admitting to it.
A poem you have written is a page of your diary except that you can allow people to read it. It is not a secret anymore as it escapes the details of the incident and now enters a state of feeling — something common to all humans. The reader can now relate to the poem while reminiscing a similar encounter in their own lifetime.
A poem you have written is a page of your diary except that it is no longer a personal anecdote but a universal feeling. A poem, thus, becomes close to divinity. A few words written down and the writer heals as they make peace with the wound. A few words read and the reader heals as they feel heard, they feel understood. And this healing happens without the writer or the reader talking to each other.
Poetry, thus, can serve as a form of therapy- writing it or reading it can become a therapeutic session. A therapeutic session that is so divine that the reader connects with the writer even when they are oceans apart or belong to different decades, different centuries.
I was first asked to write a poem when I was ten years old. I had willingly written a couple of short stories before and gifted them to my father. But I wrote my first poem only when the class teacher had asked all of us to weave a poem with the first few words which she had provided as the prompt. She loved what I had submitted and she read it in front of the entire class. I wrote more quotes and poems after that. I adopted both Hindi and English to write poems but mostly the latter. I continued writing ever since and I still do. But the first push was needed to make me aware of my capabilities. That push was then provided by my teacher when I was only ten. That push opened the door to the world of writing for me.
I believe everyone should be nudged at least once to write something. The writer would then decide whether they wish to continue doing it or not. If they continue, they have found the door that leads to the Narnia of poetry and self-healing. If they don’t, they will still know that they can choose to find the key to this door and open it when they want to.
I imagine a future where mental health is not only prioritized but also embedded in the education system, like the water the fish swim in.
I imagine one class a week where young students are encouraged to find their own voice, to write poems in the language they choose, with the words they understand. There is no right or wrong answer in such a class. The student doesn’t have to become a literary genius as they grow up. But the student now finds a way to express emotions otherwise difficult to share or even acknowledge. The student now becomes equipped to tap into their creative minds to pull out thoughts and weave words from them. The student now channels anger and sadness and happiness or any feeling and puts it into words. If the student enjoys the process, they become equipped to write more even when they are not asked to write.
“Narrative [Poetic] truth may be a parable with a clear message, or a story for the story’s sake, or the meaning may be forever unknown: a question to be reflected on, perhaps in a lifetime’s exploration of ironic space. It is the domain of poetry, music, laughter; if you ask whether it is true, you are at the wrong party.” — David Fleming, excerpted from the Lean Logic entry on Truth
For me (Dan) I imagine young students getting exposed to poetry in more than one class per week, rather I can imagine the potential for poetry to be a part of every class.
I also imagine an environment where learners can choose what they want to study, how they want to use their energy, what ‘classes’ they want to take. For those that feel called to poetry, there would be opportunities for them to take their poetry to a more focused and nuanced level. For those that find poetry uncomfortable, or not aligned to their ideal mode of being/expressing themselves, poetry would be less of their learning journey.
Growing up, I always envied musicians. They had such a powerful tool for publicly expressing themselves. During adolescence, I did not have tools for expression. Alcohol filled that void. This often compounded my problems and created greater disconnection for me.
It was not until I was living in a Thai village, in relative isolation, without the cultural distractions I had learned growing up, where I was finally confronted with my problems. There was no internet in the village. There were no pubs. No television in my home. The tools I used to distract myself were no longer available. I had to sit with my loneliness, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, regret. This led me to write. I quickly learned, firsthand, the healing properties and deep powers of poetry. To this day, poetry is a tool that I use to creatively acknowledge and honor my experiences and share them with others.
Poetry has given me a tool to slow down, and hear myself. To acknowledge my predicament, to tell my story. It gave me a chance to move beyond right and wrong, and to sit with what is. Poetry gave me a tool to be heard, even if at times I was the only person listening.
Am I an artist? Yes. We all are.
Poetry is one form of art, one tool. As with all methods, the greatest poets are the ones that transcend the tool, and become the form.
Within this process, I imagine communities that have poetry nights. Poems posted on the walls in the subways, public buses, the walls of restaurants. Young people that are introduced and exposed to poetry at a young age. Politicians, community leaders, parents, that are poets. In my re-imagination, I imagine poetry, and other creative arts, as being core components of the lives of communities. Serving as the connecting points, the joints, of individuals and communities. The creative arts are one small part that have the potential to make us feel whole. Poetry is one of those arts.
Lead Author: Sanhita Baruah
Sanhita Baruah has recently released her third book of poetry titled The Art of Healing which comprises three chapters — awareness, acceptance and allowance, as steps to self-healing, after the success of her first two poetry books in India, The Art of Grieving and The Art of Letting Go.
She currently works a full-time job as a marketing professional while also running an Alternative Healing and Consultation Service on the weekends named Step-Up Saturdays where she connects to people, provides healing tools and intuitive guidance.
She believes empathy and kindness can bring a positive change in people’s lives. She believes words are capable of making a difference in the world. And she aims for the same as she reaches out to more people with her words, fulfilling her purpose in life, one step at a time.
Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph
Daniel Rudolph is currently preparing a compilation of poems, Forgetting to Remember, and is actively seeking out artists to collaborate with on the project.
He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. Currently he is spending a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings.
Dan, and a small team, are in the process of publishing a series of articles titled ‘Live Human Signposts’ that showcases individuals that have taken alternative paths to higher education and/or are pursuing regenerative livelihoods. Live Human Signposts is being commissioned by the Ecoversities Alliance and is being carried out in collaboration with EDiT.
In March, Dan will begin an apprenticeship in Vermont at the MAPLE Monastic Academy.