Writing About Hope
Not every poem has a happy ending. Sometimes a poem- whether you’re writing or reading it- is a way to sit with a difficult emotion. In terms of looking after yourself, sitting with a feeling isn’t the same thing as “wallowing” in it, or “allowing” yourself to be consumed by it. In fact, as discussed in post 4, sometimes writing or reading about your experience can give you the necessary distance to start making sense of it.
Still, the beauty of poetry is that it has the potential to offer hope to both the reader and the writer. This doesn’t mean superimposing a false happiness onto a poem about pain. The note of hope can be subtle, faint, like Choman Hardi’s “Dispute Over a Mass Grave”, or bold as in Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”. Neither poem pretends that grief and pain do not exist, but in their different ways they give the reader an inkling of what might lie beyond them.
If you have written a poem about a difficult experience or emotion, it might be hard to see how hope fits in at all. For your own well-being, it can be helpful to think of what the best possible outcome could be. For example, if you have written a poem about a painful experience, how do you envision yourself relating to that event in the future? Is there a point at which you might feel differently, or gain more distance from that pain? You could try writing a “one day I will…” poem, imagining how you might view, think, or write about the present situation in the future.
Just as with writing about emotions, it might be helpful here to select an image that represents hope for you. The most simple way of doing this is to find an opposite to one of the images or words in your poem. If you have used colour as a metaphor in your poem, you could try finding an opposite colour and moving towards that.
Below is an example of a poem I wrote about hope.
The Lightning Tree
A flash– a crack–
a trauma of lightning–
the branch snaps
like the bones of an arm,
Charred leaves dangle
close to the ground.
In the bleak dawn,
the tree wakes.
Assesses the break.
Continues to live.
It’s not perfect, but I think it illustrates what I mean when I talk about using an image to convey meaning. The image of the storm’s destruction is contrasted with the ability of the tree to combat its brokenness. (It doesn’t have to be as abstract as this; often a powerful poem states its meaning or message directly.)
However you do it, remember that for yourself, even more so than for your reader, hope is important. It’s what will keep you going emotionally and it’s what will keep you writing. I hope you are able to take all that you’ve written- about yourself, your feelings, and your experiences- and craft something hopeful.
Blog written by Becky Balfourth