Experiencing a mental block? In need of a little creativity boost? Read poetry!
Poetry blows our mind right open—carrying us from the head to the heart, stretching our minds to new proportions and making us see the world in a different light.
How? In three unusual ways:
Often using symbolism and metaphors, the figurative language of poetry acts as a bridge from our head to our heart. Speaking directly to our subconscious, poetry resounds with something inside of us, something familiar yet unexpressible.
I experienced this the first time in my late 20s. Diagnosed with clinical depression and drugged with Seroxat, I struggled for months to familiarize myself again the creative expression of writing and photography. It had slipped away in a hazy fog, out of reach.
Eventually, I got a copy of the works of Emily Dickinson. Leafing through it my eyes fell on I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. This was it. This was my feeling, my emotion, my experience. There were funeral mourners with boots of lead stamping on my soul… This poem gave the exact image to what I couldn’t express—to something I didn’t even know was there inside of me.
The sheer relief of finding an image that resembled my hauntingly isolated experience at the time, these words printed on thin, smudgy pages lifted a piece of the veil that had clouded my creativity. A tiny piece but just enough for that spark to be lit again.
From there it was still a long and arduous struggle, but this poem, with its words carrying across an image so poignant straight to my heart was the beginning of familiarizing myself again with my creativity that had never really left.
The second way poetry can boost our creativity is by using language in ways that are not common to us. Poetry challenges us, forces us to think and stretch our mind.
Sylvia Plath’s Medusa does this for me. Written a few months before her death, Plath writes here about distancing herself from her mother by combining two separate images of the Medusa jelly fish and the gorgon Medusa from Greek mythology.
Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Eyes rolled by white sticks,
Ears cupping the sea’s incoherences,
You house your unnerving head—God-ball,
Lens of mercies,
Plying their wild cells in my keel’s shadow.
The words coil in strange ways to evoke the images Plath wanted to manifest. Our mind boggles by the sight of this, but with the challenge taken up, this poem moves us beyond our comfort zone, into the uncharted corners of our mind.
Yes, reading poetry can be very uncomfortable at first, but so is exercising. Just compare the burn in your brain with the muscle soreness you experience taking up exercise after a long break.
The third way poetry enriches our creativity is with an unusual turn of phrase or image. A good poem focuses our attention on common, familiar objects or events in a completely new way; boosting our imagination, it makes us see some aspects of our word in a brand new light.
I, for instance, never thought of my skin as a map until I read Carol Ann Duffy’s The Map Woman—A woman’s skin was a map of the town, where she’d grown up. Suddenly I observed the pink line on my eyebrow, a reminder of the swing I bumped into as a two year old on the playground; the faint scar on my thumb from that barbed wire that wouldn’t bend; the small burn on my wrist from that cigarette… It all marks the path I had walked in my past. What a wonderful way of looking at the skin we see every day without really noticing it.
So want a novel way to think out of the box? Relax into your favorite chair and crack your mind open with some poetry—let the light in and shine!
Author: Elles Lohuis
Editor: Travis May