“she’s like a swallow, possessed of her own barbaric song, strange, dark.”
~Aeschylus, Agamemnon, trans. by Robert Fagles, 1049-105
Poetry therapy, a supplemental treatment for mental disorders, as highlighted by Psychology Today, dates back to the time of the Greek physician named Soranus in the second century AD. The ancient Egyptians are also well known for writing words on papyrus and giving them to the ill with the firm belief that those words had the power to heal. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital to be established in the United States employed this approach way back in the 1700's. Most people would not be aware that Eli Griefer, poet and pharmacist actually offered poems to people filling prescriptions and forms. This spectacular initiative resulted in the conception of poetry therapy groups headed by psychiatrists Dr. Jack L. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector.
In modern times, it has become heartbreakingly painful to see that poetry has become a dying art with more people preferring to watch kitten videos than read a page of meaningful poetry that has depth and intensity. My experience as a woman (and I have been accused of being possessed by the Sylvia Plath Effect, but who cares) who has embraced the warmth of words at every step in my life, I can vouch for the efficacy of poetry in healing. Words offer a safe, non judgmental and an open landscape for expressing unsettling or challenging experiences. William Butler Yeats had exactly this in mind when he emphasized, "we make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry".
We need more poetry today than ever before. There is a need to validate emotional experiences in order to understand the need to reflect and explore the complex map of the human mind and heart. Poetry is needed to perceive reality and come to terms with the challenges of the modern world. Poetry is needed because it gives hope. It heals.
So write a poem today. Say what you have to say. Each day is a new day.