My Personal Story:
(Feel free to skip over this part and jump straight to the why but here’s how I came to love poetry.)
Alright, I have to be honest here. I have never carried more than a passing interest in any form of artistic expression, literary or otherwise. Throughout high school I took art and literature classes merely to fulfill credit requirements. Once I hit college, any involvement in the arts stopped altogether. That is, until I signed up for my Creative Writing: Poetry class with Professor Cohen. I had previously taken a poetry and fiction class in high school so I thought, what could go wrong? I needed another class but couldn’t cram any other psychology courses in and this class simply fit into my schedule well. I had always stereotyped poets as overdramatic and self-involved so I wasn’t all too excited for the start of this course. I came to our first class with a bad attitude, wanting to seem as unimpressed and unexcited as I could.
Now, each week we read poems of a certain form or related to a particular topic and then proceed to write one in a similar manner. Our first assignment was a self-portrait poem in which we had to take on the perspective of something or someone and describe it. The night before our assignment was due, I sat in my bed and tried to decide what to write about.
Nothing came to mind but my antidepressant prescription. I have had a terribly difficult time with my anxiety and depression over the last six months or so and this assignment coincided with my third go at antidepressants (which turned out to be even more unsuccessful than the last two). I had wanted to write about something simple but instead found myself pouring over this incredibly personal poem that expressed feelings I had managed to bury and hide from even myself. I debated even sharing this poem with my class but I passed it around with everyone else. Yet, I refrained from volunteering to read it and remained relatively quiet as the class collaboratively voiced their opinions on one another’s poems.
I managed to continue to avoid drawing attention to my poetry and only wrote things I had no emotional attachment to for a time. I admired my classmates to no end. I have always struggled to talk about anything remotely personal or upsetting, but my classmates shared their thoughts and opinions, personal stories, and deep emotions openly. I came to know each of them in a more candid way than I know most of my friends, all through reading their poems and hearing their thoughts.
It was in this way that I fell in love with poetry. Week by week I learned more about my classmates and became more drawn to poetry as a whole, reading more and writing more. Then finally, I found myself sharing things with my class that I hadn’t even shared with many of my friends. I trust them and they have inspired me to be more open and write poems simply for the joy of it. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
5 Reasons Why You Should Write Poetry Too:
- Anyone can do it! Poems come in many lengths and structures, all of which you can take some time and easily learn about. However, if you would rather just fly by the seat of your pants you can always opt for free verse poetry in which basically anything goes.
- Poetry can be a way to express yourself, publicly or privately. Plenty of people write poetry and share it online, in workshops, in books, in newspapers and magazines, etc., but that doesn’t mean you have to. Many use poetry as a way to journal or as a sort of personal therapy. But if you want to give sharing publicly a try, go for it!
- Some studies show that poetry can help those who struggle with depression and mental illness. According to one study done in the UK with 196 participants that struggle with psychological problems, 75% of participants felt emotional relief after writing poetry, 66% of participants found that reading poems or listening to them be read aloud to be calming and relaxing, and 7% of participants were able to wean themselves off their antidepressants or tranquilizers with the aid of poetry. Shamans and healers have also used poetry in healing rituals throughout time. There isn’t as much research on this as I wish there was, but hey, if something can help with your mental illness why not give it a shot?
- Poetry can be a way to challenge yourself and look at things from a different angle. Poetry is all about describing things in a way that portrays emotion and to see someone else’s perspective. To do this, you have to put your mind to work to figure out how to explain something in the unique way you view it within the context of lines and verses. It’s tougher than it seems! (But not so tough that you can’t manage, write in whatever way and at whatever level you’re comfortable with.)
- You have complete and total freedom when writing a poem. As my wonderful professor continually reminds us, when writing poetry you have absolutely no obligation to write anything but what you want to write. You don’t have to be politically correct. You don’t have to worry or care if what you’re saying is offensive. You can make the entire thing up or write a whole poem entirely about facts and research. Why? Because poetry is an art form and art is simply made for the creator’s expression and for viewers to interpret.
5 Ways to Get Started:
- Educate yourself! There are tons of resources to teach you anything and everything there is to know. You can enroll in a class at your school, partake in a club, join an online forum, or just do some research. Check out this page to learn more about the history of poetry and find links to famous poetry you can read for free. Check out this page to learn about all the different types of poetry out there.
- Find a designated place to write your poetry. It can be a $2 one-subject notebook and a pencil, an elaborate journal and nice pen, or anything in between! Just make sure it’s a place you can keep all your work together and will enjoy using. You can find anything you need to suit your needs local Staples, Wal-Mart, or Target (although my favorite journals have always come from Barnes and Noble).
- Set goals for yourself. It can be as simple as writing a poem once a week or as complicated as finding poets you like and trying to write in the style they do. Whatever it is, just make sure it is something attainable for you and always know you can start small and work your way up!
- Whenever you come across something that inspires your creative side or sparks up some form of emotion in you, make a note of it. Many of the best poems stem from an emotional place, or at least from some point of intrigue. I mean, think about how hard it is to write an essay on a topic you have no interest in! So take a picture, write a reminder in your phone, make a list, or just do anything else that will help you remember that moment or feeling.
- If you’re having writer’s block, check out poetry prompts and challenges online. Prompts and challenges are always fun and interesting and you’ll never write about the same thing twice. This tumblr account regularly posts poetry prompts that vary from crazy and weird to everyday things; or check out the 30 poetry prompts from each of the past four years of "30 Poems in 30 Days" here.