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Recovery Through Poetry: Healing Through The Poetics of Language

Thoughts


Poetry has never injured me, bodily

                                 Maggie Nelson 


As I write this article, the coronavirus pandemic threatens the health and safety of the world at large. In the wake of this health emergency, I hesitate to write about recovery, especially through art. I lay in bed at 5:30A.M. wondering if it’s inept, frivolous or, more directly, inappropriate. Then I consider this: If I say art is these things in serious, life-threatening times, then I’m asserting that creating and loving art for the sake of art is a feature of safety and privilege when I want to believe it is a vital outlet for anyone, anywhere, at any time. Poetry brings me back to my body in a way mediation does, invigorating my imagination and my world view. As the nation is encouraged to practice social distancing, I hope we find peace, maybe even recovery, in literature.


Prayer


Lord, fill these veins

with light,

that I may walk 

through another new year

and watch the full moon

climb over buildings

at night.


Give purpose to these hands

that I may carve

your name in the air 


Elio Schneeman


Piecing together your life after it falls apart feels immense in so many ways, it can be hard to verbalize and even understand. Through the voices and words of others, I found familiarity and compassion. Like a word bank of all I had read, I picked and pulled to create my own story and to solidify my own voice. 


Poem #599 


There is a pain— so utter—

It swallows substance up—

Then covers the Abyss with Trance—

So Memory can step 


Around— across— upon it—

As one within a Swoon—

Goes safely— where an open eye— 

Would drop Him— Bone by Bone 

Emily Dickinson


Last year upon transferring to Pratt, I started studying poetry. And by studying, I mean I took a head dive into language in a way I had never done in an academic environment before. I felt like a painter with a pen and the words were my paint, each having their own viscous, hue and tone. Assembling words to create poetry instead of the sentences that I could not speak helped me find power again after painful experiences. No, poetry is not the cure but it gives life unexpected color. 


As a young girl, I struggled with dyslexia making reading difficult. Reading and words were not my first skill nor love like many writers and poets. As my skill for reading improved, I would carry a dictionary around with me determined to catch up. Books had secrets and I was naturally curious. 


I’d read poems in math class.


In the Bible. 


I listened to music religiously.


I began studying poetry in many ways but officially in community college. It wasn’t until I went to Pratt that I learned in my many poetry and language focused courses what poetry meant for me. In many ways, it helped with my own recovery. Reading about others emotions, observations, trials--whether similar or not to my own--made me feel included. I loved the way different poets commanded, manipulated and sculpted language to make me see and feel things I didn’t know I had within me. I was granted new avenues to explore that were not my own, helping me to come back to my own experience with fresh eyes. 


Poem #539 excerpt


I could not have defined the change—

Conversion of the Mind 

Like Sanctifying in the Soul—

Is witness— not explained—


‘Twas a Divine Insanity—

The Danger to be Sane

Emily Dickinson


Life after pain is a reconstruction of the self and how we will proceed, it is not easy. It is building from the rubble upward again and there are stepbacks, mistakes, bad days, and bad weeks. It isn’t clear how to proceed sometimes, there is no map or prescription for recovering. 


Excerpt from The Easy Body


Got tired of being a faceless daughter,

so I became a poet.


Got tired of of being a rotting altar,

So I became a poet.

Tatiana Lubowski Acosta

---

Image by Emily Goto


written by
Veronica Ashwoth
April 23, 2020