Poetry has a weird reputation; people are both fascinated by it and afraid of it. We want to know: what do people write in their darkest moments, in secret places. We want to decode the language of the senses and emotions and visit other worlds. We want to lurk in the smoky, dim spaces of people’s minds. But we don’t know how. Do we need a special code word to enter? Do we need to know something before we can know something? Is this an invite-only type deal reserved for those who wear dark, horn-rimmed glasses and hang out in cafes? Would we be looked upon as imposters if we dared sneak into the world of poetry?

One of my objectives as a writer and teacher is to make poetry accessible to everyone who seeks it.

Why? Because we need poetry for at least these 5 reasons:

1. “Poetry gives you permission to feel.” ~ James Autry

What you end up sharing is the whole, complex human experience rather than simply stating facts. You can state your visit to the doctor, the serial tests that followed and the resulting diagnosis as ‘things that happened’ or you can explore them, invite others in on the journey and truly experience them with poetic language. The latter fulfills your human need to feel and forms the foundation for a place of healing.

2. Poetry helps you tap into that intuitive part of you that knows things; when you write, you may be surprised by the wisdom that spills onto the page. This is useful in healing yourself and others who have the opportunity to read or hear your work. The more you practice writing, the stronger your poetic voice becomes and the more easily these revelations write themselves.

3. If you have ever attended a poetry reading, you may have noticed that at points during the recitation of poems, members of the audience have a physical reaction to what is being read. You may hear gasps, mmmmm’s, aaahhhh’s, and other reflexive sounds. These are declarations of sharing space. When we listen to one another, we create an intimate world where we visit each other’s hearts. This type of connection creates a community where joy and healing can take place. Isn’t it comforting when you realize you aren’t alone in feeling something?

4. When I talk about poetry as healing, I don’t mean it will shrink your tumour or cure your addictions. I do mean that it will heal your spirit in a way that gives you the strength to deal with physical illness and problems. Think of it as building the terrain that makes it possible to navigate tricky situations. Or a creative tool for helping you see things in a light that lead you to feeling whole again.

5. If you need a friend, poetry will never fail you. What is it that you seek in a friendship in your darkest hour? Or in a moment of great triumph? Or even those times when you don’t have something extraordinary to say, but you want to say it anyway? Someone who will listen and who makes you feel…like you exist. Like you’re known. Like you’re understood. Writing words on paper will do that for you; it will be your companion when you need one.

Are you more fascinated by poetry, or afraid of it? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative