Reading and writing poetry is a recognized therapy. It has proven effectiveness as part of a counseling process or when done independently. Writing poetry in the journey of self-exploration and healing offers similar benefits to other expressive arts therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, and dance therapy. Reading poetry that speaks to your emotions and life experience and responding to it in written form is healing and reduces isolation, loneliness, and depression. Poetry is effective in reducing stress. It is calming and centering and provides hope. Metaphors and images help you get in touch with what is unexpressed inside you. 

Writing poetry can be cathartic. When you put your thoughts and feelings on paper, you move them out of repetitive cycles in your mind onto the paper. You see them, experience them in a different way. As you use metaphors and similes, naming and comparing your experience, new awarenesses occur. You increase self-knowledge and self-understanding. When you create a poem about an experience, you have a completed project, something you can look at or share (if you like) that expresses yourself. It is a work of art - a creative expression of your life experience. You have transformed your experience into something beautiful.

Poetry uses symbols that have many meanings. These symbols speak to your unconscious. That is why reading a poem written by someone else can move you so profoundly. Something is shared that is common to all human beings and your soul recognizes it. This refers to the universal quality of poetry. You can read a poem written in the middle ages, in the 1900's, or yesterday. They all speak to you. You identify.

Writing poetry allows you to be as child-like as you want. Young children are creative, imaginative, explore, and love adventures. Most adults move away from those charateristics and, in becoming responsible, may get stuck in set ways of seeing and experiencing life. Poetry allows you to open up. It is written with the imagination and is a creative expression of exploration and adventure.

What you need to start writing poetry:
  • Time - Set aside a time. Make sure your plan is doable and then stick to your plan. Look at your life and find a time where interruptions are less likely.
  • A place - Decide on a place that is all your own.
  • Tools - Make sure you have everything you need in that place: paper or journal, pens, and books or readings to inspire you.
  • Attitude - Perfection is not the goal. Poetry is not judged. Try to have an attitude that what you write is unique and worthwhile and style and content are not essential factors.
  • Something to stir your imagination - This may be a poem, a picture, an image in your mind's eye. 
  • Use your senses - Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
  • Detail - Describe in detail what you see or experience.
  • Ideas - Compare yourself to a river, a bird, a cloud, a stone, a mountain, a tree. Find out what happens.

You can write about a grief, loss, or an extremely painful situation and express deep feelings without naming either the experience or the feeling. You can summarize, abbreviate, be concise, or be expansive. You can use words to express your feelings in whatever way you choose. You can be concrete or you can be veiled. You can use all the poetic devices that you know. Or you can scream on paper - in whatever fashion you choose. You may know what you are saying. You may not. 

Poetry writing has been successful when used in therapy with people who experience anxiety, depression, grief, posttraumatic stress, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It is used with victims of sexual abuse, both child and adult. Poetry writing increases self-confidence, enhances self-esteem, and increases self-awareness.

Sometimes memorizing particularly moving pieces of poetry and reciting them in difficult times can be useful.

Other sites you may find useful:
UC San Diego Medical Center: Poetry 
Mindful Living Programs: Poetry


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