writing the present

 In Poetry

In the last two posts we’ve spoken about the ways writing about the past can be healing.  Now we turn to the present, to the ways that writing poetry can be helpful in the here and now.  Disclaimer: I’m not an advocate for mindfulness in all situations, but I do believe that grounding yourself firmly in the present moment can help with transient stress.


To demonstrate how this works, I’m going to use the example of haiku.  A haiku is a short Japanese form usually comprised of three lines.  The first line has five syllables, the second seven, and the third has five again.  Typically, haiku centres its theme around nature but, as with any poetic form, there’s flexibility as to how you use it.  I tend to see it as “writing about environment”, whatever that environment might be.


Let’s imagine you are sat on the Tube during rush hour.  You were lucky enough to get a seat at the start of your journey but now every seat is taken and people are standing all around you.  You feel stressed and overwhelmed.  Finally, just briefly, your train comes above ground again.  You take that moment to reflect, to feel your feet on the ground and write just the shortest of poems.  You take in your surroundings, latch on to a particular image and use it as the foundation for your poem.


By spending your time choosing each word, and by counting every syllable out, tap-tap, with your fingers on your knees, you have given yourself something to meditate on.  People talk about how poetry can act like a mantra, and this is a similar idea.  Trying to remember your poem without writing it down is like repeating a steady mantra.


Perhaps this process gives you some fresh perspective.  You could keep the haiku and work with it- refine it, or transform it into a longer reflection on the image you chose.  Or you could leave it as it is- make a collection of your Rush Hour Haiku, make it fun.  Either way, the act of creating a poem can provide a safe-haven for you in the midst of stress- and this works in the mundane, everyday stress of life but also in much more difficult situations and for more serious problems.  It isn’t a cure-all by any stretch of the imagination, but it can help provide a pinprick of light in a dark situation.


Today I challenge you to let the creation of a poem- be it a haiku or a different form- allow you to take you out of yourself, at the same time as grounding you in your surroundings.  It’s harder- and more worth it- than it sounds.


Blog written by Becky Balfourth

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