Between the Lines

Practicing art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. … Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. — Kurt Vonnegut

Kathy Steffen

Happy Poetry Month! There are many benefits to writing poetry, even if it turns out to be “a lousy poem.” Remember — no one ever has to see your writing. If it goes out into the world, that is its own particular reward. But what if it’s bad? What if you never have the nerve to let anyone read it? What can you gain, even if your poetry never sees the light of day? Glad you asked.

Writing poetry strengthens your writing skills. Language, writing and verbal communication  will improve by spending a little time thinking about words. Another side benefit is that trying to bring a thought, idea or emotion into words will expand your cognitive process. I don’t know about you, but mine needs all the help it can get!

Gets your creative juices going. Creating something out of nothing, even a few lines on a piece of paper, can be a wonderful experience. And once your creativity is active, it will spill into all areas of your life.

Greater self-awareness. Free-write fast enough to outpace your internal editor. Don’t give your brain time to second-guess. You may not have time to sit and ponder what is going on in your daily life or your purpose in the universe, but dashing off a few quick lines can lead you to an eye-opening experience. And who doesn’t need a bit more insight these days?

Heals emotional pain. Writing poetry is a safe way to vent. Have you ever gone through a difficult situation or bad time in your life? (Hint: this last year of pandemic living.) Are you experiencing any depression or anxiety? Writing is an excellent outlet for pain — getting it on the page can help you deal with anything. You might be surprised by something that has hurt deeply, but you’ve pushed it back and ignored it. Name it, write about it, and it will become something you face instead of something in the background, surreptitiously gnawing at your insides.

Builds empathy muscles. Creating poetry can expand your thinking about other ways of life and perspectives. This world needs A LOT more empathy, so why not do something to improve yours?

Share a gift of inspiration. As you will see throughout this month’s Voice, many brave souls have shared poetry with us. And don’t you feel a connection to them (whether or not you know the poet)? Human connection happens by sharing poetry — in this year a particularly difficult thing to achieve. Read, enjoy, be inspired and try your hand. Write a verse on the back of a napkin or the bottom of a bill. Might seem like a small thing to do, but oh, how much there is to gain!

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She is grateful to write from her home in Spring Green that she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.