I had a wonderful poetry mentor who used to say, you can’t separate yourself from the poem, not if you want to be writing honest, meaningful poetry.  I spent a lot of time thinking about that and wondering if I could really do that, really commit totally to the poem “being me.”  It seemed so revealing, almost like standing “emotionally” naked in front of those who would read my poem.  On the other hand, it also sounded wonderfully cathartic.

I began slowly, to allow myself to let the poem take me where it wanted to go.  I removed all the restraints and protections that would reveal less of who I really was.  I suddenly found my poems taking on a life of their own.  I would write them, and then go back and read them and discover, I had said something, meant something, revealed something that I had tried to hide, even from myself.  My poems explored my life experiences, my loses and failures, my love and my successes and I knew, then, that my mentor had been right.  Poetry is not just words on paper.  Poetry is you, the poet, stripped to the emotional bone and sharing that with your readers.

I also discovered something else.  I discovered that it didn’t matter if anyone read my poem.  What mattered, what always matters to the creative spirit, is that I wrote it.  That’s true of the dancer, the painter, the singer, whatever creative energy propels you, you are the one, in the end, that you create for.

So, for this lesson, I’d like you to write something down on paper – a word, a few words, a whole line – that expresses something you are hesitant to share with others.  Maybe, it’s something you are hesitant to share, even with yourself.

“I am lonely.” “He doesn’t love me.”  “I don’t love him.”  “I am desperate.”  “I am lost.” 

Maybe your revelation is even more dramatic than any of the examples.  Let it weep or sing on the page.  Let it become you and you, become the poem.  You will not believe how freeing it is.  It is like, after an endless amount of time, putting down an incredibly heavy burden, straightening your back, and moving forward, lighter, and reenergized.


It is too late   some wounds

can not be healed   the flower

plucked may yet burn red

a while   but as the hours pass

it fades and bends to die

     and I   who sought to touch

the things you loved and learn

their names   grew wide inside

your circle for a time   now

I watch the morning

spill across the worn wood

of the windowsill and lie

within the space of a single

breath   trying to count

the seconds to eternity

     the clock orders me to rise

with certain dread I take

the first step on this first day

I come to know you dead.  – Susan A. Katz (All rights reserved – from the collection “On the Edge”)

Leave a Reply