Poetry can be excellent therapy. It allows you to process the events in your life, both good and bad. Some people shy away from writing personal poems because they either don’t think their life is important enough to write about or because they fear opening up those emotions and rehashing painful moments in their lives. Writing about yourself and the things that happen to you can be difficult.
Learn to process the events in your life with poetry. You don’t have to start with the most painful events in your life. The problem with writing about major traumas is that is so difficult to capture them in words. When something horrible happens to you, words often seem inadequate. You can save writing about those events for when you are feeling particularly brave and strong. Start small. Start with the little stresses and minor conflicts that make up most days. Many times, it is the smaller moments in our lives, not the larger ones, which are the most telling and interesting.
You are a Character
One of the keys to writing about the events in your life is to accept yourself as a character. When you are writing about yourself, you are essentially writing a persona poem, and the persona is you. A person reading your poem is going to be viewing you as a character in the poem. They may understand that you are writing about yourself, but they will still be viewing you as a character that they are trying to interpret and connect with.
First or Third
Some people find it helpful to write about themselves in the third person. Using this technique they move even further toward viewing themselves as a character. This technique allows them to step outside of themselves and view the events in a more detached way. Some people are comfortable with that process, while others prefer to stay in the first person. I, for one, like to stay in the first person.
Honesty as Policy
Some people wonder how honest you have to be when writing about yourself and your life. They fear that if they veer from the exact events, that they will be lying. This depends on your point of view. I try to be as truthful as possible in my poems, but the problem with being utterly truthful is that you may not be comfortable letting other people read your poetry, especially those who might be involved in the events. In reviewing my old poems the other day, I came across one that I know would be very hurtful to a friend if I released it, so I left it sitting on my hard drive, unread by the world. I could fictionalize it a little more but in the end I would rather keep it private and let it be true than change so I could publish it.
There is no doubt that writing about yourself comes with a certain degree of personal risk, but I believe the reward is worth the risk. Not only do you get to process the events of your life, but with luck you get an interesting character to write about.
Today’s Poetry Assignment
Write about moment in which you changed your opinion about something. It could be something important, or something minor. The change is important. We often hold beliefs for years and years, only to find that a small change in circumstances alters everything.
If you are writing your poems somewhere other than this site’s comments, please take a moment to let us know you did the assignment and how you felt about it.