We’ve talked about how poetry can influence our wellbeing through the process of accessing and sometimes confronting memories, emotions and personal experience. Everyone has a story to tell. Learning to tell it- and learning that it is worth telling- is one of the key things poetry has to offer when it comes to emotional wellbeing.
However, the ways in which writing helps us are varied. The New Economics Foundation lists five ways to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn, and give. I think poetry can help us do all of these things- and I also think that each of these things can help make us better poets. Below is a small discussion of each of these things that keep us well, and how they can inspire us to write better poetry.
Connect: by connecting with other people- a text, a letter, a phonecall or a face-to-face chat- we make ourselves less lonely. Poetry can offer a way to connect with others, whether that’s through groups or societies, or simply by reading someone’s words and feeling connected to what they’ve said. It can also be about connecting with yourself- spending that little bit of time with yourself that helps you create a poem and maybe understand yourself better.
Be active: People often talk about physical activity as something that really boosts wellbeing, and it can help with poetry too. However, being active doesn’t need to be about running or walking; an activity that takes up mental space (like looking through old photographs, or doing the crossword) can also be inspiring. Trying out something different can really help you write something unusual.
Take notice: In post 3, I wrote about how being in the moment can help us to write good poetry- and how writing poetry can help keep us in the moment. I think paying attention to your surroundings can be a really great way of thinking of new topics to write about.
Learn: To be a poet is to be constantly learning. We learn from books, from other poets, and most importantly, from life. Learning is important because it keeps us mentally active, and helps us feel as though there is always more to be achieved. You could learn words from another language, or about a particular historical moment, to help with your poetry.
Give: Writing poetry- even if you don’t end up showing it to anyone- is an act of giving. To write, you have to take something from yourself and put it down on the page. It’s a generous act. When you share your words, whether on a stage or in an anonymous forum, you help others to connect. This, in itself, can be inspiring- and is also part of the point of poetry.
Writing one single poem can incorporate all of these elements, and all of these elements can be inspiring. Next time you feel uninspired, or unhappy, it might be worth running through them in your mind and seeing whether any of them might help you write, or feel better in general.
Blog written by Becky Balfourth