When I was younger, teachers and parents used to emphasize the power of words. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” was a common saying. “Words can hurt” was another simpler version. As kids, we were taught that words were powerful, yes, but in a negative way. The potential to make someone upset or angry.
As I grew older and explored different writing forms, poetry stood out to me as a solace that I could not find anywhere else. It was then that I learned words have the power to heal, which is an avenue less celebrated than it should be. My job through part one of Poetic Potential is to show you just how much power poetry, writing, and words can hold in making you feel whole again.
An Emotional Art Form
At the base of all poetry is emotion. The spectrum varies, from love to wonder to frustration to anger to sadness (and everything in between), but dig deep enough into any poem and you will find a feeling woven into the words. Robert Frost once said, “Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom,” which goes to show how much range can be involved in a single poem.
The beauty of poetry is that you can be as explicit or implicit with your emotions as you would like. That’s where poetic and language techniques come into play. Diction, connotation, imagery, tone, and structure all factor into the overall meaning of the poem. Every poet is different in their techniques, too. Shakespeare used traditional 14-line sonnets to portray his love while contemporary poet Natalie Diaz uses a 40-line free verse form for her poem, “These Hands, If Not Gods.”
If you are a poet, think about what inspires you to write poetry. Chances are, there is an emotional aspect to your motivations. Even if it doesn’t seem that way at first glance, writing has a way of drawing out emotions that you didn’t even know existed under the surface of your skin.
Journaling, Mental Health, and More
The coronavirus pandemic made everyone more aware of their mental health, as quarantines, isolation periods, and an overall lack of socialization led to negative emotions across the world. I noticed that many people took up journaling as a way to benefit their mental health, seeing as it is an inexpensive and efficient way to work through tough times.
How is journaling useful? A multitude of reasons:
Journaling can help you manage your anxiety and reduce stress levels.
There is something about putting a pen to paper that helps you alleviate the weight on your shoulders and mind. Many studies have been conducted by Dr. James Pennebaker to uncover the powers of expressive writing and the results are astounding (check out his book here).
Journaling helps you track symptoms and identify triggers.
By writing a little every day, you can start to identify trends and patterns and how they correlate to different moods. You have a written record of emotions that can be discussed with a close confidante or mental health professional, if writing is not enough on its own.
Journaling offers you an opportunity for positive self-talk.
It is a conversation between yourself and the page – you can freely write all of the negative thoughts down and brainstorm ideas to get past them. Affirmations are popular nowadays, too, so use your journal as a way to manifest your own best life.
How Poetry Healed Me
What does journaling have to do with poetry? To me, poetry is my journal. It offers the same benefits and the lack of rules in free verse form allows me to portray my thoughts however I would like.
My first foray into poetry was when I was in high school, dipping my toes into the relationship world for the first time. I wrote love poem after love poem, expressing my emotions when I found it hard to say them out loud.
And then my heart got broken. Shattered into a million pieces. I turned back to poetry, but in a different way. I leaned on it to heal.
My journey with poetry has been full of ups and downs, focusing on the highs and lows of life. While I am partial to love poems with a positive tone, some of my most powerful pieces have come from themes of empowerment (tones of frustration, determination, and a hint of anger) and heartbreak (tones of sadness and disbelief). But the times I have needed it most, like my 10-day isolation period last year, were when the healing powers really shone brightly. It lowered stress levels, made me feel less alone, and made my world seem bigger than a single room.
And one thing I know for sure – my experience is not the only one. Poetry heals people. You just have to give it a chance with an open mind and open heart.
Want to Learn More?
To discover more stories and research about the healing powers of poetry, check out chapter 3 of my new book, Poetic Potential: Sparking Change & Empowerment Through Poetry.
*Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links, which mean I could earn a small commission for your purchase through that link. Everything is tested and approved by me – I only share what I believe is worthwhile!