Why write, especially poetry? If it's not an assignment for school or something that you're being paid for, why do it?
If you are someone who might ask these or similar questions, then this post is for you! If you're already an avid keeper of journals and poet (dabbler or professional or somewhere in between), then I hope you find something new here to continue to inspire you.
About eight years ago, I was emotionally shut down. I was numb from divorce and working in a job that was smothering me. I had just reached a significant milestone in my career as a high school math teacher and chose to reward myself with a reading and writing retreat on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent a glorious 5 days on Ocracoke Island doing a great deal of writing and resumed a long-abandoned habit of daily journal writing (see Julia Cameron's Morning Pages). It didn't take long for the full impact of this experience to shake my world to its foundation.
Writing broke me open. Writing poetry allowed me to explore structures and forms to fit my confusing swirl of emotions that were surfacing at an alarming rate. Ultimately, the practice of daily writing and the incorporation of writing poetry began to heal my broken soul.
As I continued to write for the next several years, I began to see several recurring themes in my words. I was writing about childhood trauma, adoption, rape, and mental illness. I was also writing about home and family. Through my writing, I found a voice for the hurt little girl that was still sulking inside me. I found a voice for the violated young woman and the scarred, scared woman that I had become. Words had become my refuge and my journal was my safe place.
A couple of years after the Ocracoke experience, I began sharing my poems through my own blog (http://seekingmeme.wordpress.com/ ) and I saw with increasing frequency that I was far from alone. I began to network with other poets and others who had similar experiences. I was shocked at how many people came forward to tell me "It happened to me, too." I became more and more certain that this was all pointing me down a new path in my life.
I am now a student (again) working toward a Master's degree in Art Therapy. I'm studying visual art and creative writing in the hopes of combining the two (along with perhaps music and dance) for a multimedia arts approach for trauma victims, allowing them to find their own voices. I believe that it is critical to find your voice and then use it in a safe and healthy way. Personal journal writing and poetry are my safe places.
I'll have more to say on this topic next week, along with some links to a few related websites. For now, to those that are regular writers, how has it helped you? For those that don't write, what's stopping you?
~ Amy McGrath