Healing & Seeing through Poetry

Who shall hear of us
in the time to come?
Let him say there was
a burst of fragrance
from black branches.

from Love Song – William Carlos Williams

Poetry moves through me in many ways, in ways that seem impossible to catalogue, to explain or do justice. That feels like it’s exactly how it should be. 

I returned to reading & writing poetry after many years of being away & have found it to be a trusted friend & valued support on my own healing journey, as well as a joyous companion that leads me deep into a world that is soaked in wonder & newness. 

Poetry also allows me to approach the painful in myself, to gently explore it, understand its underlying quality, to uncover the shapes of grief or anger hidden beneath a difficult event or feeling. It allows the discovery of the nature of what I am trying to approach – to understand that “it is like this”, “it is like that” is incredibly helpful – it allows for greater insight.

This practice of writing about challenging situations requires stillness. When I come into that place of stillness in poetry—  as with all practices— when the attention is brought to bear, the observed object begins to change. The act of approaching, of paying attention to — begins to bring space, to bring light, to heal. At that moment of seeing & understanding – there is that blessed relief, the bliss of releasing what has been held back, held onto or hidden. 

But poetry is also an art — a delightful, mysterious, ineffable, divine art. It is not meant to be understood fully. It is always more than we can grasp. It feels to me that the insights that we receive when we sit & write, or sit & read come from beyond our conscious mind.  Whether you feel it from deep within, from above, from collective consciousness or from the muse—  it does not matter. It matters just that it arrives — unexpected, unannounced, bringing light.

Poetry often shows me the harsh voice inside myself, so that I can bring more love. It also shows me the loving voice in myself, that I can bring more love. It illuminates the nature of all of this so that I understand better, so that I can bring more kindness, more compassion, more love.

The insight, the healing, the blessings of poetry are manifold. I’m very grateful for them all.

A Note on Beginning:

It’s very difficult to begin….

We’re habituated to not speak, to bury our feelings & not to express them. Culture also tells us that some people have talent, some are to be artists, poets & the rest of us are just not creative. We’re told we should read the poems, listen to the songs, admire the art but not write them, play them, paint them. 

Everyone can write, but I feel the main barrier is not technical — it’s emotional & energetic. We feel we’re not good enough, not allowed to. We’re blocked, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t allow ourselves to joyfully or tearfully or playfully create.

The advice is often to “just write”, “just pick up the pen” etc. but sometimes we need more support than that. Starting means pushing through these blocks in finding your voice. In those times, a writing course can be very valuable. A supportive teacher & community of classmates can really encourage you to start. And in the starting, the magic happens. Whether you write just for you, or write to share with others, it doesn’t matter… just begin.

I’ll leave you with some wise & beautiful words from Mary Oliver:

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Praying – Mary Oliver

by Deirdre Gleeson
Image Credits: Unsplash: Guilherme Stecanella, Alexander Grey, Rahadiansyah


If you’d like to begin to write in a supportive group, or to develop your writing, join Adele Leahy’s 5 week online poetry workshop from 15th of May. You can find more details here: https://saoro.org/2024/04/10/online-poetry-course-with-adele-leahy/

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Deirdre Gleeson
Deirdre Gleeson
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