With this poem I hope to express one aspect of therapeutic writing – ordering and processing the grief, pain and loss. The action of writing it out creates meaning, allowing a deeper understanding which, for me, brings a sense of calm empowerment. However, one friend’s take on this was that I sounded like a victim – the blanket like Linus’. Quite the opposite of how I feel and what I want to convey. Please let me know what you think.
With this pen I write
words course onto the page
ink the colour of my veins
curlicues, serifs, pen-strokes all
Marks on the page
created by hand
each thought a neurone
extending from cortex though fingers
Ball of string within my chest
its mess binding
heart, lungs and mind
Words set free
dance upon the page
transformed, a salve
comforting blanket of
Today I’m off to another Express Yourself Writing Workshop with Arnold Zable. Five hours of quarantined time to write, talk about writing and to listen to the experiences and writing of others. Best hop in the shower…
Tonight I wrote a poem that I’m not sure if I will, or indeed, should, post. The writing is about one aspect of charity after the bushfire. It is a subject that I thought I felt mildly annoyed about. However, as I wrote I realised that what I thought mere annoyance was unabashed rage. As I sat in a suburban cafe genteelly drinking my latte I found venomous words pouring onto the page, written by my trembling hand. I was shocked by the depth of my feeling. By my fury. And this rage is directed at people who were, no doubt, well intended. Who meant only to help me and others like me. I’m sure they have no idea how much pain their charity gave me. They don’t deserve the lambasting they receive in my three stanzas of rage. Yet, I cannot look away from this anger. I cannot pretend it isn’t there. And if I have experienced these feelings, then it is almost certain that other recipients of charity after disasters have felt this way. It is one of those ugly truths that we would prefer to shun. To disown. To ignore and hope it will go away. And ‘proper’ social behaviour dictates that we should be grateful. To passively smile and accept all that is given, recognising how lucky we are.
Having written my piece I now have to decide what to do with it. Should I post it for all to see and risk alienating or offending potential readers? Should I file it away and hope that the writing has served to relieve the burden of the anger, even by a fraction? But, by hiding it from sight does that indicate that some feelings are to be ashamed of? That we cannot be emotionally true? By not publishing this poem do I continue the disenfranchisement of other disaster-affected people? Should I allow them the chance to recognise their own feelings, their anger? What are the ethics of this decision? How do I balance non-maleficence with the possibility of benefit for others? And, quite apart from the ethical and social considerations there is the underlying merit of the poem as a piece of writing. It is undoubtedly technically raw and I’m sure I could polish it, give it better meter, be more inventive. My concern is that, by editing it, I may lose the power of the invective and, thus, its emotional truth.
So, I will sleep on these issues and let you all know what I have decided tomorrow.
My thanks to the City of Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Committee for arranging a series of workshops covering a wide variety of creative arts. Today I was lucky enough to attend a five-hour workshop run by Arnold Zable (http://www.arnoldzable.com/), a Melbourne author and creative writing teacher. He must have a prodigious memory for he can recite large pieces of text from previous workshop and class members without referring to notes. I was touched that he remembered me from a previous workshop and could recall the poem I had written about anger. We performed three writing exercises exploring – a moment in time, an object and a character. Most challenging was the character piece, in which I attempted to describe my five year-old son in prose. I wrote about a magical moment fishing with my father and a pod of dolphins for the first exercise and it was the first time I had written creative prose for many years. Indeed I suspect the last time I wrote creative prose was in my Year 12 exam – and that is quite some time ago now! I may work on it some more and post it for your reading pleasure (I hope). The object exercise I completed in verse and will tidy up and publish on the blog, perhaps as early as tonight. The women attending the group (where are you men?) were wonderfully supportive of each other and had interesting stories to tell. Our styles were varied, but themes of pain, trauma and loss predominated as one would expect from such a gathering (and thankfully a box of tissues was located). The only problem with attending such a workshop – now I have even more passion to write.
Posted in Thought
When I started writing I thought it would provide me with means to record my feelings (and the events) for posterity and that it might also allow me to process some of the grief and emotions. I had no idea that there is a body of evidence surrounding the value of therapeutic writing. Indeed, my blog subtitle was written in complete ignorance of this fact. So, what has the process been like for me so far? And how has having a blog affected this? The first five poems I wrote were written in one day and seemed to emerge almost fully formed without conscious thought. Some others have also arrived in this fashion but others have taken considerably more work. I have been writing for about six weeks now and I must say that I feel somewhat emotionally spent although I know there are many more subjects with which I could (and probably will) deal. I suspect that the benefits may take some time to manifest (and I confess I have not read the literature). I am trying to write some more positive, self-affirming works in order to counteract the onslaught of negativity. Some very tangible benefits have been the positive feedback I have received from those who have read the poems (though they are telling me in person or emailing me instead of commenting here). Several people have cried and one friend told me last night that reading ‘Suburban haven’ was just like being taken for a walk through my new home, which is exactly what I intended (we’ll see how accurate a picture I created this weekend when she visits). The blog has been helpful in that it has encouraged me to write more – I need to feel as though I have a (potential) audience – perhaps I am an exhibitionist? The pressure to publish has thus made me more productive but also means that I am likely to post pieces that really require more work and, for that, I apologize. I am also trying to be less conscious of any literary merit the poems might have and to concentrate of getting the feelings and thoughts onto the page – once again, I’m sorry but I guess you will all stop reading if it becomes too self-indulgent. So, thanks again for reading. If anyone has any ideas or themes about which I could write I’d love to hear them. (I’m not running out though).
Posted in Thought