The Healing Power of Poetry

Posted: March 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I had a bad week that turned into a great weekend.

I am going to talk about VERSeFest soon, in another post, but while I was there I was interviewed for a promotional video. One of the questions was something along the lines of ‘what does poetry mean to you’. I blathered some heartfelt nonsense. (I really speak poorly, which is odd since I work in ‘spoken word’ poetry, but there it is. I stumble over my words and I have a hard time saying what I want to say. I have heard it kindly referred to as my mouth not being able to keep up with my brain. I don’t know, but it sure makes me a lousy host, as anyone at our Saturday night show can attest. It sure was a good thing we had some amazing poets to make people forget about my stumbling mumblings…)

Here, however, I want to give you my real answer by telling you a story.

I have been down lately. I could give excuses about problems at work or trouble writing good poetry or things (physically) falling apart around me or money issues or my own barely functioning feelings of adequacy or stability or…whatever.

The real issue is that depression doesn’t need a reason.

Wednesday morning I took Ruthanne to the airport. She was being flown out to the St.John’s Storytelling Festival to run their Story Slam and perform.

I drove back home and called in sick to work. This was legit. I had to get up way too early after staying up too late with Ruthanne and I figured I would literally fall asleep at my desk. If it was just being tired, that would be one thing, but I was feeling really off-kilter. Ruthanne being away didn’t cause it, but it meant I got way too much time to… wallow.

I was planning to go to VERSeFest that night to see Voices of Venus (an erotica showcase featuring Beth-Anne Fischer? That could certainly cheer ANYBODY up…), but I couldn’t get myself to go.

That is one of the effects of depression, by the way. An event that I was planning to go to that would make me feel better? Nope… can’t bring myself to go. Even amidst my self-awareness (bit of a pain in the ass, that is…) I couldn’t do it.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I always have trouble sleeping when Ruthanne is away, but this was worse. At some point, well past midnight, I realized I couldn’t go to work Thursday. I called in.

Thursday was no better. It was more of the same actually. I felt terrible and couldn’t bring myself to do anything. The one thing I TRIED to take care of (we had a problem with a closet bar that needed fixing) failed and it seemed like the worst thing in the world. Another feather on top of another feather on top of another feather on that poor camel.

Once again, I had planned to go to the Oneness Showcase and the other VERSe events that night but couldn’t get myself to go.

Then it happened.

Somewhere between 2 and 3 am early Friday morning, I decided to write.

I wrote a poem called Insomnia. I unloaded onto the page the weight that felt like it was pinning me down. Is it the greatest poem ever? Probably not, but it sure felt like it at the time.

When I was done, I immediately wrote another (called Stroll On) that had been rattling around in my brain but hadn’t come out. This one had NOTHING to do with the problems I was having but in the process of writing the first one, it seems like I reminded myself of who I am and what I do. All the stupid shit at work and in my head and whatever doesn’t change that. I am who I am and I do what I do.

And to anybody who that isn’t good enough for (or anybody who wants to rip apart this sentence for grammatical clarity) fuck you.

And to be clear… those people I am referring to are in my head. I have amazing, supportive people around me. It is all me being an enemy to me.

(As an aside, I can’t wait for Ruthanne to get home so I can share them with her. Nobody gets to hear my poems before she does… well, except that one I wrote for our Anniversary…)

I called in sick one more day. Even though I was feeling much better, I still didn’t get enough sleep.

Friday night I went to VERSeFest and spent time with people who find poetry to be as important as I do.

(As I said, I will talk more about the festival soon,,,but here, before I forget, if Karen James ends up reading this… thank you. THANK YOU. THANK YOU!)

So, I am feeling better. Why? Poetry. It gives me a way to let those inner demons out and spin them into something creative.

Can I say such a grandiose statement as ‘without art, we are nothing’?

Maybe not, so just let me say…

Without art, I am nothing.

And THAT is what poetry means to me.

  1. jessicaruano says:

    Poetry heals me all the time.
    The question was actually “Why do you write poetry?” … but close enough! And I thought your answers were wonderful. Though I appreciate this addition/clarification.
    Rusty & Ruthanne will reunite soon! xx

    • With you on Karen James too. she brought something to the festival that obviously no-one else could have. Probably the most provocative thing I’ve heard in a while.

      • rpriske says:

        YES! I have heard her name before. She was drawn for the Last Chance Slam at CFSW, but she had to withdraw before the festival came and when I invited her to come down to Capital Slam she told me she works on Saturdays.

        This is the first time I have heard her and hope to hear more int he future.

  2. Hannah Christie says:

    Thanks for this, Rusty. It’s those sleepless nights and fights with inner demons that give truth and weight to our writing, and ultimately, I believe, make us not only better artists, but more compassionate and empathetic human beings.
    The fight is definately worth it.

    • rpriske says:

      Not only is it worth it, but the art doesn’t create the problem. Without the art, there are only the demons.

      The art is my drug, in every good sense of the word.

      Oh wait, I said Ruthanne is my drug. I would hate to contradict my poetry….

  3. nadinethornhill says:

    Thank you for writing this and everything else you write.


  4. […] I talked about it here. […]

  5. […] forward to March. During the first VERSeFest, I was having some issues that led to some insomnia problems. I dealt with that by writing some poetry. I started with a […]

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