“I can’t walk and talk at the same time.” We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time and my friend was frustrated with me. I kept having to stop every time I wanted to say something and my body was veering off course. It didn’t seem like it was only my body veering off course, it seemed my very life was, and it was! I had experienced a ‘like a stroke’ event, a rabid bat bite, and severe adverse reaction to medication, all of which compounded together nearly paralyzed me.
I could hardly lift a book to read, a glass to drink from or grip a pen or pencil hard enough to write. It was also difficult to gather my thoughts, find my words and speaking aloud I would hear myself misplacing the order of words in my sentences. I also noticed this misplacement of the order of words in my writing.
I scrawled and crawled my way back to health. Scrawling out poems became part of my therapy. The first ones were quite horrific. A person who is suffering physically, mentally and emotionally, is not going to produce brilliant, flowing, peaceful poetry that flows in a steady stream of thought. My writing became a form of physical, mental and emotional therapy all at once. By that I mean at one time, each time I wrote, I was exercising all three areas. As a spiritual person, I was also working with balancing my faith. Knowing I could bring some relief and healing to myself by being proactive in all these areas I kept writing.
I remember looking at the pencil and thinking the keyboard was easier, but I knew that since I had been using a keyboard for so long, I needed to re-learn how to grasp a pen or pencil. I am by nature, right handed so began writing sentences with my right hand. I copied sentences so that I could get the words in order. I hand wrote some poems and reflections I had typed in the past. Then remembered I had learned if you want to wake up some of the brain cells we have on reserve you should try to do things a little different. So I began drawing letters with my left hand and then moved into writing some cursive. Some days I felt like I was in preschool. I’m smiling as I write this, because preschool is really fun when you think about it.
I joined some writing groups once I regained some self-confidence. I was pretty nervous about this as a person with PTSD does have anxiety and trust issues. The people in the groups were for the most part, kind, patient and willing to give me room to heal, process and grow.
It’s true that if you want to write in a certain style or genre, you must first read that genre, then study the dynamics and rules of plot, character etc. One might think at first, that this is not necessary when it comes to writing poetry. Isn’t it all just a creative process? Yes, poem writing is a creative process. I, as many other poem writers, was healing and recreating my life by getting involved with and practicing the art of poem writing.
After writing my way through all the depressive, anxious, grief-filled and regrettable moments of my life I began writing more uplifting poetry and also decided trying to write poems for children. I challenged myself to take some of my poetry to children so I contacted a local preschool and visited two other classes of grade school children. They really surprised me; some wanted to talk about the poems, what the poem made them think, feel and what it reminded them about. Other children enjoyed laughing over some of the silly ones.
During the time of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I was exhausted so going places to be around other poets was not a good option for me. I put out a request through an article in the local paper to invite other ‘closet’ poets and those who enjoy poetry and I contacted poets through Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, a statewide organization. These wonderful people said they would love to drive this way, to be featured readers and help raise awareness about the benefits of poetry to the cultural and literary health of a community. For the past two years I coordinated the readers and the schedule and cannot tell you how much I appreciated their encouragement. Their poems, their generosity of sharing, their presence here in this town was a wonderful gift and part of my healing journey. We have not met for the past two months with the wintry conditions, and I’ve become involved with another project, The Poets Tree of Peace, and am also working on putting together a collection of my original poems for my first chapbook.
My next step in this process of using poetry for healing and growth, is to learn the art of recitation, that of memorizing with the intent of presenting the poem without the aid of media, cell phone, laptop, paper or book. I’m inspired by the poets who are able to do this and I’m hopeful that I will regain that skill as well. To encourage myself and others I wrote a very small poem about this hope –
It can be as hard to memorize a poem
As it is to find your way home.
Yes, it can be hard to do these things when you are young, and while dealing with health issues, but I have discovered writing poems has helped me find my way home to my inner being. to overcome some fear and anxiety, has renewed my confidence helped me find my own voice, re-introduced me to the song of my life and re-discover the rhythm of my inner spirit.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
June lives in the four season state of Wisconsin and enjoys dabbling in creative arts. She and her husband have four children and nine grandchildren and is happy when any of their lives slow down enough to spend time together. She is a member of Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (wfop.org), and has had poems published in The Poet by Day, Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, Blue Heron Review, HaikUniverse and Grief Digest. She is the author of Praying Our Way Through Stress (Westbow Press) and A Stable Birth (Lovstad Publsihing) www.junegpaul.com
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