Why Learn to Write Poetry
Poetry for Healing
I never imagined that I would one day learn to write poetry, much less publish a book of poetry. I began writing to heal after my husband was killed by a drunk driver. When a trauma healing professor suggested that I write my story in 100 words or less, I didn’t think it was possible. Read more about that exercise at
My First Grief Poem.
Reasons to Learn to Write Poetry:
Poetry shows us what is essential
The thing with this 100 word exercise is that it showed me what was essential for me in my story. It showed me what was most significant. It also got me started writing poetry, because in a paragraph there was just too many wasted words when you are only allowed 100.
Poetry helps us feel
Shock and numbness are the natural reactions of our bodies to traumatic news or events. This shock is a good thing because it keeps us from becoming completely overwhelmed by the pain in our lives. However after time, we need to allow ourselves to feel and work through the painful emotion. When I began to write poetry after my husband’s death, I had this sense of a thawing of emotion that had been “frozen” within me.
Poetry helps us center
There are so many things in the world that we can be anxious about. Yet the act of writing can take us to a quiet, peaceful place within. All personal reflection writing can help us connect with our inner voice of hope. In his book Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making John Fox says, “You make a poem with words—but you also build an interior place when you write, a place where your intuitive voice may awaken and thrive.” p. 4
Poetry helps us communicate
Whether you are writing for an audience or for yourself alone, poetry is a form of communication. We learn about ourselves as we write. As you put words to your stories, to your world, to your emotions, you will be surprised at what you will learn from paying attention to your life. In the same book, John Fox says, “More than ‘curing’ or ‘solving’ particular problems, communicating truth in the spare lines of a healing poem gives life to a healthier spirit, a whole spirit able to meet the challenges of a difficult world; a spirit rooted in integrity, simplicity and a sense of compassion.” p. 11
Here is a poem that I wrote that tells about the healing gift poetry has been to me.
The Gift of Poetry
Until your death,
I hadn’t written a poem
since high school English class.
It wasn’t my thing.
Then came an invitation to write my story
in one hundred words or less.
I had to clear away the extras,
unearth the essentials.
Sifting through the rubble,
a ruby here, a diamond there.
Instead of a paragraph,
it came as a poem.
Just another stone to kick,
yet I notice, stoop, reach
examine, hold, caress,
a pearl is there to see.
And so poetry has come,
a gift unforeseen,
to find my way,
one line at a time.
Janelle Shantz Hertzler
Seasons of Solace
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