“We loved with a love that was more than love,” wrote the American poet Edgar Allen Poe in his last poem he wrote before his death, “Annabel Lee.” On Oct. 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on a bench on the streets of Baltimore. A few days later, on Oct. 7, he was pronounced dead at Washington Medical College.
During this anniversary of his death, I am brought back to remember the poet and his works which first introduced me to poetry and the idea of free, uninhibited thought in writing. Poems like “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Annabel Lee” captivated my young mind and broadened my perspective on how to express thoughts and tell stories.
As I grew older, I began to appreciate other poets as well, such as Levi the Poet, Dan Smith, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. The more I wrote, the more it forced me to open up and become progressively more introspective. Poetry soon became my daily diary and a source of therapy.
According to goodtherapy.org, “Poetry therapy (is) a form of expressive arts therapy (that) involves the therapeutic use of poems, narratives and other spoken or written media to promote well-being and healing.”
An early version of this therapy began in the Pennsylvania Hospital in the mid 1700s. As the idea of poetry therapy grew through the 1800s and into the 1900s, poet and pharmacist Eli Griefer, in 1928, began offering poems to clients who were filling prescriptions and eventually started “poem therapy” groups at two different hospitals with the support of psychiatrists Jack L. Leedy and Sam Spector.
According to therapy.org, therapy poetry has several benefits, including being used as a vehicle for the expression of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express and promoting self-reflection and exploration.”
In my own life, as a teenager and young adult who was unsure who I was, forcing myself to understand my voice and potential through this therapeutic approach helped me gain confidence. Instead of keeping a daily diary, I have learned to write my experience and feelings via daily poetry.
I have been writing poetry consistently since I was in high school. It has opened my heart up and taught me how to love, express my feelings and be more understanding of those around me.
We all have talents, interests and skills. Whether that be found in art, poetry, athletics or academics, sharing those talents and interests helps us express who we are as an individual. Never be afraid of those talents, whatever they may be.
The beauty in humanity is that we are all individuals, and we all have something to give and learn from one another. For me, I learned this principle through reading and expressing myself through poetry.
Mary Oliver, in A Poetry Handbook, said, “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”
Never be ashamed of who you are. Never feel down if someone looks down on what you enjoy or what you believe in. Never let others determine who you can become.