It’s simple. I write, because if I don’t, I’ll go crazy.
I’m what’s called a HSP – a highly sensitive person. We are 20% of the world’s population, I’m told. A HSP feels more intensely than the average person. We pick up on others’ emotions, even just by sitting next to them. We can tell if someone’s down, no matter how big the smile on their face is. For HSPs, the news isn’t entertainment. We feel death and disaster in other parts of the world, as though it were happening in our own lives. That’s why I don’t watch the news any more.
What does all this have to do with poetry?
Well, if I don’t write, my emotions have nowhere to go. And when emotions are bottled up, dysfunction develops. I could talk to a psychologist, but that’s expensive. Besides, it has less to do with “figuring it out” and more to do with “getting it out”.
When my dad died, I wrote. In “Tales Intermediaries Tell”, I imagine myself as the bridge between him and my unborn children:
My father’s hands
Will run their fingers through my daughter’s hair
Caress her cheek,
Rub her back when she is unwell.
She will chew on my father’s hands
When she sticks my fingers in her mouth.
In “Here and back”, I imagine my dad and I meeting again in another life:
What if the next setting for us
We’ll have epic meetings
And talk on the phone for ages.
We’d each wonder why the other seemed so familiar
But we would say nothing.
The words of other poets trigger me. My favourite poets disturb the peace. They let their words do the attacking. I feel that I know the poet, this stranger, a bit better.
Some of my favourite lines from other poets:
“Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks”
~Donovan Livingston (at his Harvard graduation speech)
“You cannot arm-wrestle your way out of depression
The CEO of the company that just laid you off
Does not care how much you bench.
And I promise you,
There is no light beer in the universe
Full bodied enough
To make you love yourself”
~Guante (his poem: 10 Responses To The Phrase “Man Up”)
A good poem, reminds me of our common humanity. And it uses words to elegantly describe even those thoughts & emotions you’d rather not acknowledge in yourself. It’s a relief to know: “I’m not the only one”.
And this happens everywhere I go, as I recently experienced at Words Tell Stories in Bombay. Be it Australians, Kenyans or Indians – the response to good poetry is the same. I can read poetry on my own; but listening to a poet, watching others jaws drop (or fingers click), is like adding gasoline to a fire.
Regular conversation, ironically, can often get in the way of truly expressing oneself. Poetry, elegantly sidesteps this problem, by giving us permission to tell it exactly like we feel it. Poets have always used the back door to get in. We have to, because the “guardians of decorum” always bar the front gates. But we manage to get in.
And once we do, most everyone is glad we came.