How Poetry Has Made a Difference in My Life

As I have probably mentioned before, I have a complicated relationship (or history, anyway) with poetry. But, over the last few weeks, I have gained a greater appreciation for how poetry has made a difference in my life.

It has been therapeutic. I first noticed this a couple of years ago, while going through divorce, especially when National Poetry Writing Month came around. I was able to get things out through poetry that I wasn’t through writing in my journal or going to support groups. Divorce was a solitary experience; since my ex knew all the people I knew, I couldn’t really talk to any of them about it. Instead, it all went into my poems. As time has gone on, getting all that stuff out has helped me to move on, since it is no longer swirling around in an endless loop in my mind.

It has given me a focus. Whether it was coming up with the day’s poem for National Poetry Writing Month, putting together collections of my poems, or picking something to read at an open-mic event, poetry has given me a focus that I haven’t had for a while.

It has gotten me out of the house. When I decided to publish a collection of my poems, I had to get out to talk with folks about getting the thing into print. Then, I had a launch event to do. More recently, I began attending open mics. This is a good thing, as it is pretty easy for me to do that whole ‘cocooning’ thing (which is not good).

It has enabled me to meet people and establish (or deepen) new friendships. By regularly attending open mics, I am becoming a regular at some of them. There is something about the ‘where everybody knows your name’ thing—even if they know my face better than my name. And, in at least one case, it has given me more in common with someone who was already a friend.

I have a sense of belonging and confidence that I have not had in other areas. Poetry is not the first creative activity I have pursued. In the 1990s, my focus was music. But, I was surrounded by people who had been doing it longer than I had and/or were better musicians than I was (I never actually considered myself a musician). The Impostor Syndrome often loomed large during this period, especially when my inspirations were obvious (never mind that only a small number of people would have noticed)—even though most of the feedback I got was positive, and there were a few people who purchased copies of just about everything I released.

Things were even worse when I decided to go into graphic design. Despite how well I did in school, and how highly regarded I was by a lot of the faculty and my fellow students, my overall lack of experience (particularly when it came to web design, in which I have zero interest), combined with the state of the economy in 2008/9, and the fact that I was 45 instead of 25, made it difficult for me to accomplish very much. I never felt particularly confident in my ability to do the job.

With poetry, on the other hand, none of that is a problem. I have been writing poetry long enough (since I was a kid) that I have my own voice, and am confident in what I write. Though I admit to often being surprised at what other writers come up with, and am always happy when another writer likes something I have written, I do not have have that ‘I’m a fraud’ feeling that has often plagued me in the past. I feel perfectly capable of holding my own, of recognizing that my voice is as valid as anyone else’s.

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As uncertain as I am about a lot of things, I am pretty certain that poetry is something I will continue to do, regardless of whatever else comes along. I have even bought a gigantic, 600-page blank journal/sketchbook to write my poems in. Yes, I expect to be doing this for a while…

(17 March 2015)

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