Take Back Your Poems
– AND Your Journal and All Your Other Personal Writing, Too!
A guestpost by Joyce Mason
Our most powerful writing comes from raw emotion. During my twenties and thirties, I lived a high-drama life. I’ve always been a sensitive soul, and it has taken a lot of living to learn how to manage that feeling load.
Nothing captured those waves of gut-level reaction like my poetry. I learned a valuable lesson in sharing them at readings, primarily in the 1970s when I was writing most of them. The more personal the poem, the more it hit a universal chord. Boisterous applause from the crowd confirmed that my poignant moments of bonding, betrayal, emotional highs, or losses had the same core substance as theirs, even if the specifics were different.
While I’m long over any anger or hard feelings toward my first husband, a poem he evoked perhaps illustrates the power of releasing this raw emotion like none other:
Taking Back the Poems
You held me at gunpoint:
invisible fingers cocked at my temple
harmless on the surface
lethal to my spirit
The poems were decimated.
Ink ran every where.
They died instantly.
“You dump all your anger into your poetry,”
(or something like that.
(It sounded like criticism.)
I was terrified to cross you
while you held a gun to my head;
so, I dropped them.
The thud echoed in the chambers of my heart—
a duet with the empty pistol.
Sixteen years later,
our marriage long dead and gone,
my life rounding the finish line
I am taking back the poems!
I found your ransom note
crumpled in my notebook.
“Your poems or your life,” it said
(as if there was a difference).
© 2010 by Joyce Mason
Sensitivity: The Mixed Blessing
If you write poetry, you are a sensitive soul. In fact, you’re “a sensitive” if you write at all. We are the artistes of the pen, the word-medium analogue to the painter with his or her brush. As the punch line of my poem highlights, suppressing this urge for full expression will kill us—in spirit if not in body.
Not all of our personal writing needs to be published, however. We need to make careful decisions of what hits the public page, especially because we tend to be more open and vulnerable. For me, distance in time from the experience often makes a difference. I am clearly not an exhibitionist, either, and I am always asking myself, “Do I want mere strangers to know this about me?” Sometimes I am more comfortable with what I call “airplane intimacy.” I’d rather tell some things to strangers than to my husband’s relatives.
Whether or not we take them “raw” out in public, our most personal poems and journals are a virtual goldmine for all kinds of writing—memoir, novels, articles. Everything we write comes from our personal experience, at some level. In fact, writing is only compelling and well received if it evokes these very emotions gleaned from our most intimate joys and sorrows.
I advocate active journals, poems, or whatever form works for you to expose your rawest emotions in the privacy of your office, computer, or notebook. From that private place, you can edit, hone, and decide what “goes public” and in what format. There must be a sacrosanct, private incubator with no holds barred.
As I’m sure you can guess, I wrote “Taking Back the Poems” at a pivotal time in my writing life. The sense of being stifled or “made wrong” about my poems by the person I loved most had devastating consequences to my feelings about writing. In fact, I stopped writing poems all together. In writing this poem, I “writed” a wrong that opened the floodgates of my word flow once more.
Life is nothing if not full of ironies. “Taking Back the Poems” coincided with going public with my career as an astrologer where my writing has been my legacy even more than my personal readings. My astrological specialty is the centaur planet, Chiron. Discovered in 1977, Chiron’s astrological meaning relates closely to the mythical character after which he was named, the half-man/half-horse and great mentor of heroes, Chiron. Chiron is often known as The Wounded Healer, and in an individual’s horoscope, astrological Chiron shows places we’re stuck emotionally because of past hurts. Often in working to heal those wounds, we discover our greatest gifts of vocation. Personal healing leads to healing the community by contributing those things that only you can do as a unique individual.
No surprise, I have a wound of “not being heard” and my feelings not mattering. Writing is the way I heal it for myself and others. This is what leads to our personal and collective wholeness.
As writers, our vocation is to heal others and ourselves through our words. Writers joke about how our lives constantly bring us great material. We are melodrama magnets. This is no accident.
If you’re a writer, your life is bigger than your own. You live a life that’s meant to be illustrative, not just to you, but also to the larger community. That community is now as big as the world, thanks to the Internet.
This is a mission where you can’t hide your light under a bushel. Know Thyself is your most pivotal source of inspiration and your truest ally. All writing has the potential to heal, whether it informs, evokes, or entertains. (Laugher is the most healing force of all!)
Take back your most powerful words and heal yourself. Discover how they will help you mend your corner of the world. That leads to what I call a divine domino effect.
Thank you to Joyce Mason who stepped in as Guestwriter today. Joyce has been a writer since she could hold a pencil and a practicing astrologer since 1988. Her first poetry collection, Thick Water: Poems for Bonds of the Heart will be available this spring. Learn more about Joyce’s work and publications on her Writer Joyce Mason website. Her blog about living by the cosmic hints around us in spirited style is Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. Her astrology blog is The Radical Virgo. “Taking Back the Poems” is the title poem of her second poetry collection.