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The Power of Poetry: Helping Us Heal, Feel and Transition

I taped Jorge Luis Borges’s poem, You Learnto the wall above my desk. It’s helping me through the married to not married transition. It whispers messages about love and endurance when I need them. Often my eyes drift to the poem and gently land on a line or stanza…

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers…

Like a prayer or mantra the poem works its way into my consciousness and nurtures me from the inside out.

Where We Turn in Crisis

We often discover poetry during a crisis. When we are most vulnerable.  When we are willing to let beautiful expression and resonance tap the soft spot where we bleed and heal. Poetic imagery helps us understand through sensations and feelings rather than a gathering of knowledge.  It soothes our inner world with artistic light and universal meaning.

Let us not forget that music is poetry. Song lyrics speak to us like intimate friends. Melody puts its arm around us and walks us forward. Singing shifts us little by little from victim to survivor. From being alone to being one with all.

 Poetic Ritual and Writing: Keeping Us Sharp and Satisfied

Poetic verse is not passive.  It engages us and makes us discern, ponder and investigate.  It turns our focus inward and then outward.  How is this me?  How is this everyone?  For this reason poetry writing is as valuable as Sudoku, crossword puzzles and reading in the battle to maintain mental acuity. In the article, A Mad Obsession: Poetry on the Brain by Cynthia R. Green, Dr. Milton Ehrlich is mentioned for his late-in-life passion for crafting poetry.  Ehrlich began his sincere poetry writing at the tender young age of 70, when he transitioned from working full-time as a psychologist to working part-time. Dr. Ehrlich is now 80 and has published three books of poetry. He writes about wisdom earned from experience and the conflict and comfort found while exploring our inner psychic worlds.

I am always working on a poem and seem to crank out a new poem almost every week. I think about it all the time. Some would call it a mad obsession.  ~ Dr. Milton Ehrlich

I myself spent a year reading and writing Haiku poems. I stumbled upon a beautiful little book called, Haiku Mind and was hooked.  I made it a ritual every morning to compose one of these small wonders.  I loved capturing the birth and death of a moment in a set of syllables organized in a simple 5-7-5 pattern.  Stripping everything away but the seed of truth, which showed itself with a tiny burst of light. I highly recommend the practice. Note to self: reinstitute haiku habit.

Poetry in Education

I remember learning the technical aspects of poetry in school. Iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme, 5-7-5 syllable  structure.  I memorized and recited a rather long poem in sixth grade about getting a haircut and washing your car.  I vaguely recall it being humorous. I have no recollection of how I felt when I read the poem other than I was proud of my memorization skills. I have no residual feelings of attachment to the words or message.  What a shame.  I wish I would have chosen a poem I was so drawn to that I had no choice but to learn it by heart.

In The Sun Magazine’s article, Written on the Bones: Kim Rosen on Reclaiming The Ancient Power of Poetry, poetry therapist (healer?), Kim Rosen, says memorizing a poem is more like conquering it than entering into a relationship with it. Learning by heart denotes a willingness to be moved and changed. She says no one told her in school that poems were conscious-altering substances. No one told her rhythm could free her mind, alliteration could allow her feelings to flow and rhyme could crack open her thought patterns.

Perhaps this is exactly what children need to be taught in school. Surrender your pride and allow yourself to be moved, changed and healed.  The willingness experienced will carry you through life’s crises. Openness will expose you to beauty and opportunities you will never see with a memorization-muddled mind.

I know of a boy closing in on the final days of a three-year chemo regiment for ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ). His body and spirit are weary but he’s made it. Six weeks ago his 6th grade Language Arts class did a poetry unit. Kids were assigned a poem to read and answer questions about.  This boy read the poem, Another Mountain by Abiodun Oyewole. The final lines in the poem are, But my wings only work, after I’ve climbed a mountain. Instead of stuffing this poem in his crammed backpack and forgetting about it like most kids did, he took it home and shared it with his mom and instead of putting it in the recycle bin after that, he folded it neatly and put it the important papers file.

You Learn

I take Jorge Luis Borges’s poem, You Learn, to heart.  I grant it access to my subconscious and spirit. Every day it seeps in and guides me through this time of transition. It teaches me how to tap into vulnerability and heal the wounded spots. It teaches and I learn.

Where do you experience poetry?

In music? Within your faith? At poetry slams?

Has poetry ever helped you heal?

If you enjoyed The Power of Poetry then you may also like:

JFK Eulogy for Robert Frost – Los Angeles Times

The Journey – Mary Oliver

The Invitation – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Blossom or Hibernate? In Love and Work, When Is It Right to Start Anew? – Space2live

Spirit of Summer – Space2live archives

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  1. […] Whatever it is, I am excited for the emergence (as I see it in the classroom) of a wider interest in poetry by a more diverse reader. There are more teenagers engaged in poetry (structure, word choice, and devices) because of Hopkins’ beautiful books. Source: […]

  2. Debbi September 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Sorry, I’ve been mia for quite awhile, but I connected to this piece. I have read JFK Eulogy for Robert Frost which was phenomenal. However, someone recently introduced me to his website. I wanted to read a piece of it that night, but I was very tired. I thought, “I don’t usually read poetry, but I’ll be able to read a few short pieces and get a flavor”. …I read the entire string of poem after poem after poem. When I didn’t think I could stay awake to read anymore, I went to the bottom poem….and couldn’t help myself but to work my way backwards up the list. They were extremely emotional. I’m now looking at poetry in a different light and am interested in finding poetry that I connect to instead of everything I was told I should understand in the past. I think I might even want to try it knowing the release it gives in such a small spurt. I really was moved by this series of poems sharing a personal story.

    • brennagee September 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I think we all are introduced to poetry in school in such a fashion that we think it must be complicated and “out there” in order for it to be good. The poets we are fed in school are amazing on many levels but also may not be relevant to many readers. As an adult it took me a long time to find poems and poets that spoke to me. It took me even longer to realize I could write my own poems. Poetry is approachable and moving if you find poets/pieces that hit home.

      I’m so happy you found beautiful poetry that captivated you. Such a lovely feeling.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad to have you back.:)

  3. […] How To Hide The Obvious Effects Of AgingHidden Object Crosswords for iPhone – allinmac.deBetter LivingThe Power of Poetry:Helping Us Heal, Feel and Transition […]

  4. stephenedwards425 April 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    I get called to poetry…I read it for a while then drift away…then I feel the tug again…feels like the ebb and flow of the tide as it caresses the shore…

    Be encouraged!

    • brennagee April 21, 2012 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Much of life is like that, isn’t it? Ebb and flow. Our moods, relationships, energy, creativity. It’s nice to think of it as a tide caressing the shore. Thanks for reading and commenting Stephen.:)

  5. Shannon Murton April 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    We must be kindred spirits. You are spot on. 🙂

    • brennagee April 21, 2012 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Oh we are kindred spirits Shannon.:) I’m not surprised this hit home with you my poet friend.

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