Poetry Saved My Life




I was fifteen when poetry saved my life.

It saved me from myself, really, from sinking into despair and giving in to grief. It saved me from the knife, or pills, or whatever else my teenage mind could have thought up.

Poetry saved me by showing up one afternoon and insisting I write some words down. "Now!" it said, "not later!"

Poetry saved me by making me savor words, by making my brain chant them over and over til there was paper.

Poetry saved me, quite literally, on a sunny day after every friend I'd thought I needed had left. There was nothing but me and some paper and a pen and a tree to climb and sit in while I wrote. (And a family and a house and all my stuff and friends; when poetry saved me I was at the height of my teenage melodrama.)

And how amazingly lucky am I, that poetry continues to save me? To shout words in my head, waking me up from my complacency, waking me up from my middle aged slumber.

Poetry is art. And art saves. Art reaches deep within and pulls us out. Screaming and kicking sometimes, yes, but saving people isn't always pretty, isn't always nice. Isn't always even what they want at the time, but it has to be done. Or else.

Poetry saved my life by gifting me with words and focus and the insight to know that if I wanted to bring better poems into this world, I should study, and if I wanted to study, I should read great poems and that if I wanted to write on more topics than just "oh how my heart hurts because I'm all alone!" I should LIVE.

And that is how poetry saved me. By giving me something to live for. So I could continue writing poems.