We may have lost faith in our ability to write poems, just as we have lost faith in our ability to heal. Recovering the poet strengthens the healer and sets free the unique song that is at the heart of every life. –Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the health benefits of reading poetry. Today I write about another health benefit: Writing poetry.
Writing is a form of self-expression, necessary to our healing processes. When I’m working with grieving persons, I recommend they write their feelings and memories in their journal. Whether it be poetry or prose I tell them, “Take what is on the inside and put it on the outside.” Holding grief inside us, keeping painful feelings uncovered and unexpressed, is not healthy or conducive to healing.
Writing poetry, it seems to me, is healing because it takes us beyond the confines of the rational and reasoning part of the brain. Though important, necessary, and helpful at times, the intellectual aspect of our brain has its limits. Writing poetry can take us into the deeper strata of our being with its images, rhythms, and colors and can help us discover those parts of ourselves that have remained undiscovered—and therefore unhealed or immature. Poetry assists us in our inner work, fostering personal growth and maturation.
Though I strongly believe in the healing power of poetry, and of writing in general, it seems that the hardest thing for me is simply to start writing. I don’t know why I often tend to procrastinate. Perhaps it’s a matter of inertia. Or fear. But the important thing for me to remember is: just start. Just put my pen to paper and start.
Writing poetry is a way—a beautiful way— to express our truth. John Fox, poet, author and certified poetry therapist, has done a great deal of work on the link between healing and poetry. Take a look at the website “Poetic Medicine” to learn about his work, sign up for newsletters, or get prompts for your own poetry-writing sessions.