In some respects, the process of enrolling as a Trainee Poetry Therapy Practitioner has changed the way I read Poetry. My choice to pick up a volume or not, to use a poem or not, is no longer purely personal. When my husband was ill, and my children were frightened it became important to offer a sensible amount of hope and I have decided that this will be the basis of my approach:
Does this poem offer a sensible amount of hope? Is it transformative? Where in this poem are the hope and transformation?
Sometimes it is enough that experience has been transformed into lines and syllables, metaphor and rhythm; sequenced into word patterns. Indeed it is word patterns that I hold onto when I am lost; their intricate rhythms are invisible threads that connect inner and outer life, hold the tension between conflict and resolution, signpost the way to a moment of clarity.
And as I woke with these thoughts, I realised that there is poetry I could not use. I’ve been reading Sharon Olds’ Selected Poems. Brave writing demands brave readers. I’m not always brave and with this collection I have flinched, gasped, laughed, cried, closed the page before the end of the poem. I have been delighted, repulsed, revolted,energised. And awed! Truly awed. Her minute detailed powerful descriptions are transformed into words and emotions that are felt in the body and gut.
Could I use this poetry with a group? Olds’ attention to detail is graphic. I could use a few poems but only with more experience, and then only with a group that is established, solid, grounded and safe, and only with the poems where I am comfortable with my own uncomfortable reactions.