Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968
My childhood’s most memorable moments were made up of pen and paper and muse. My father and I loved to play Poem-Poem! We gave each other an opening line, then built our own poems around them. Time limit: five minutes. What emerged was usually hilarious, often downright nonsensical, but sometimes, stop-you-in-your-tracks-stunning! At any rate, what we wrote was perhaps not so important as the fact that we wrote it, thinking, feeling, creating, expressing, laughing and sharing so much. Let poetry pamper you. It is to the soul what manure is to the rose. Nourishing, enriching, life-giving.
Did You Know!
- The word ‘therapy’ comes from the Greek word therapeia meaning to nurse or cure through dance, song, poem and drama.
- The ancient Egyptians used words written on a papyrus that would later be ingested by the patient.
- Apollo is the god of both poetry and medicine.
Poetry As Therapy
Surprise! You can actually become a Certified Poetry Therapist. To qualify, you should have studied Psychology and Literature, and of course have a passion for words.
Part of your job would be to select a poem that echoes what a person is feeling, so that it might help open a dialogue on the subject. Reading Emily Dickinson, for example, might help you realise that loneliness isn’t unique. Now this is where the therapist’s training comes in, because poems mean different things to different people, and a poem that uplifts one person might depress another.
A therapist once asked a patient how it felt to hold a published copy of a poem he’d written. The man simply replied, “I feel like I am somebody, finally.” So, the act of writing those poems helped him define himself.
Even more, poetry can help you connect to others, Stephen Dobyns, author of Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry, says, “I believe that a poem is a window that hangs between two or more human beings who otherwise live in darkened rooms. “
Come, Tango with Words
Write a poem. Yes, you can, even if you’ve never written one before. Just sit down with a nice, smooth pen and crispy paper and dip into your heart. Let your thoughts and feelings flow freely. After all, you are not doing this to win a prize. Write about something’s that been on your mind for a while: someone you love but cannot express your feelings to? A source of worry at work? The agony of waiting for a medical report? Pour it all out on paper. It needn’t even rhyme, as long as you enjoy the cadence of your own words. You’ll find that writing a poem can help clear your head and lift your spirits beautifully.
Paint your poem! Try to sketch joy, loneliness, or the mood of that poem you wrote when you were feeling restless. Chase that thought with your camera. Who knows where it might lead?
Share your verse. Discuss it with others, and you can get valuable feedback on your style and content, besides touching a chord with those who listen. Join a poetry club, maybe: verse-reading sessions can help you bond and refresh.
A Poem For Every Mood
Fun: The delightful American poets Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein write for kids, but no adult can resist their magical verse. Sample this gem by Prelutsky:
“My stomach’s full of butterflies!”
lamented Dora Diller.
Her mother sighed. “That’s no surprise,
you ate a caterpillar!”
Optimistic: “Tu zinda hai toh zindagi ke jeet mein yakeen kar, agar kahin hai swarg toh utaar la zameen par.” The forceful optimism of this poem that millions of kids have chanted at school assemblies is guaranteed to lift up the gloomiest heart.
Inspirational: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep…” these lines by Robert Frost (Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening) have inspired countless worker bees to toil on, no matter how tough the journey.
Romantic: If you can read Urdu, then it’s the Deewan-e-Ghalib, which will make you smile and cry in turns with its reflections on the pleasurable pain of love. In English, it’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning with verse like, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” that never fails to tug at the heartstrings.
Calming: Rabindranath Tagore’s Geetanjali. Each word is strung into this collection like a glittering pearl. ‘The earth laughs in flowers.’ ‘Timid thoughts, do not be afraid of me, I am a poet…’ Leaf through this ageless work and allow yourself to drift away.
Meet the Writer
Babita Raikwar is a freelance writer. She believes in love, magic and babies.