USING POETRY FOR SELF CARE
Author: S. Westacott
Writing poetry is something I always shied away from - I never quite got what made a poem good and always imagined there was some rule I was missing. It’s still something I worry about but over the years poetry has become much more than a form of expression - it’s one of the most important forms of self care in my life. From freewrites and journal entries, to prose poems and scattered stanzas in notebooks poetry developed into something I could create and use at any time, pretty much wherever I was, to get all my feelings out and try to make sense of them.
Here are my tips for writing poetry for self care:
Abandon the idea of writing something that’s perfect.
Giving yourself permission to write whatever comes into your head, whether it flows really well or is incoherent or you dislike it a day later, is so important - not everything you write has to be amazing and not every amazing poem starts out that way. Free-writes work really well for getting your confidence up with this - set aside some time each day to write about whatever comes to mind, whether it’s something that’s worrying you or something lovely you saw on your daily walk.
Poetry can look and sound however you want it to.
Try and take in lots of different styles of poetry, from spoken word to prose poetry to haikus… There’s so many different ways of doing things and you might find a style you really love and click with, but equally it should reassure you that there’s no right or wrong way to write! You can write a single lined poem, pages and pages or somewhere in between and they’re all valid! This makes poetry particularly useful as it can fit with your mood - whether you want to angrily jot down a rant or spend some time reflecting and celebrating a success...
Don’t put pressure on yourself to share everything.
Poetry can be an amazing way of connecting with others, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to share anything you’re not comfortable with. Write for you alone, it’ll take away any expectation and be more helpful as a tool to help you reflect. If you feel like sharing afterwards, that’s great but you can always delete or scribble over or throw away any work you don’t like - so don’t worry!
Poetry communities are amazing places.
If you are ready to share your work… There are so many different poets out there that you’re likely to find a community/space where your work really resonates. If you feel comfortable, sharing your poetry can help you to feel heard/acknowledge your own feelings. It also allows you to express difficult emotions and learn to understand others better. Whilst you should always be mindful of what you share online, poetry communities on sites like Instagram are easily accessible and can be really supportive places!
Give yourself small exercises/challenges.
Particularly in the current climate you shouldn’t be putting lots of pressure on yourself to be amazingly productive all the time. Small exercises/challenges that feel manageable can be a great way to achieve something tangible that you can look back on, without being too overwhelming. How about writing a haiku or setting aside 5 minutes of your day to free-write about anything that comes to mind - a memory, an anxiety, something in your room…? This is a great way to take time to reflect and figure out what’s important to you, plus you can look back and feel proud that you’ve created something!
Some helpful resources:
Poetry Foundation - This website has plenty of helpful resources about lots of different types of poetry, as well as podcasts, poems on a broad range of topics and author profiles! It’s a really great place to look for the work that resonates with you and learn more about poetry in a wider social/historical context.
Young Poets Network - has lots of amazing opportunities, guidance and challenges. From ‘how to read a poem more closely’ to what all the different technical terms you might read about actually mean! https://ypn.poetrysociety.org.uk/
#poetry - #poetry explores how poets have used Instagram to share their poetry with their readers, the backlash against online creators, how the platform has allowed women to prosper in a new environment, and why millions of people are following poets online…. can Instagram make poetry cool again? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu215ixgjtY&t=2167s
A great challenge that you might find fun to get involved in with a group is creating a Renga Collaborative Poem - this can be done remotely via emails or messenger with friends. https://ypn.poetrysociety.org.uk/workshop/renga-a-collaborative-poetry-challenge/