The healing power of poetry

I have several clients who like to write poetry and I, myself, have written many poems in my life. I love to go back and read them (most of them). There is something healing about expressing one’s feelings through a poem and examining it with curiosity in later years. Jenni Schaefer, in her book “Life Without Ed”, talks about the healing power of writing and its ability to help us break out of the cycle of disordered eating and distorted body image.

And yet, writing poetry isn’t always healing at first. Instead of releasing the disturbing thoughts and uncomfortable feelings, one can end up painting such a vivid picture that it’s hard to come back to the present and recognize the art form for what it is — self-expression. One needs to use this mode of expression in the context of mindful awareness of the present, with the idea that these are just thoughts and feelings — they are not good, not bad, not any more or less real than before they were expressed.

Tonight I opened a journal my mom gave me in 2004 following my separation from my husband and prior to our divorce. I found a poem that I wrote in early February of 2005. I haven’t read it since that day I wrote it. I also found a poem I wrote a few months later. They’re very different in tone, but equally interesting to me. I’m now able to examine them as would a curious on-looker at a museum. I can simply notice the tone and become aware of the imagery.

Still Life

Pale-faced and gaunt,

you stare at me

through bloodshot eyes

and blow a thin trail of smoke

from between your dry lips.

 

I avert my gaze,

so difficult is it to see

the potential, the life

held captive and squandered

just beneath the surface

of this skeleton in front of me.

 

Yours is a confusing world of pain –

not dealt to you by circumstance,

but chosen and even nurtured by sheer habit.

 

You clothed yourself in darkness,

made a pact with the night,

and bound yourself with heavy chains.

 

I stand up to leave,

wishing even now

that I could help you;

somehow remove your burden from you,

but I know you’re strangely happy

in your prison.

 

In the dark void that surrounds you,

you are content.

Content to be a still life –

waiting for the right artist

to find beauty in self-imposed suffering.

**************

I

I, strong-willed and adaptive,

celebrate this night,

nearly one year since.

 

With weather-worn trunk

and broken branches,

still, proud, and tall I stand.

 

Sun rises and sets,

silver moon casts her glow

and here I yet remain,

 

Absorbing the Mother’s gifts,

living off her energy,

the cycle of seasons, my guide and Friend.

**************

It’s nice, almost nine years later, to have gained such emotional distance from the events described within the poetry. I guess the healing power of poetry isn’t always as evident in the moment its written, but can be discovered years later upon review. I would love to read/see some of your poetry, readers! Feel free to post in my comments section.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

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