As we walk down the road, we see so many faces, but we only see the person on the outside. “Good morning” they say. “Good morning” you reply “How are you?” “Very well, thank you” for who wants to be put in a psychiatrist’s chair out on the street? In fact, you are lucky to meet anyone who has sailed through life without inner hurt caused by one thing or another and especially by another person who deliberately or not hurts another by their words.
You may even look at my poems and see fun children’s poems looking back at you, optimistic poems which speak of happy things or of the beautiful world in which we live. Yes, everyone lives behind a veil at times and I, like many others, started to write when I felt I had hit rock bottom emotionally in life. I didn't write for long and my poems stayed in my books for many years until I met children who told me they liked them. I have had people say to me: “It was so therapeutic to write” and others who have said “It was as if an unknown hand took over and the words don’t seem to be mine.”
I am afraid that this is what happened to me sometimes and without knowing anything about ballads, iambic feet or, indeed, anything about writing poetry, I wrote and wrote and wrote and these things all appeared without study. The word therapy comes from the Greek “therapeia” meaning to cure through involvement in one of the expressive arts: dance, song, poetry or drama. Poetry as therapy uses the traditional techniques of poetry: metre, rhyming, the use of metaphors, but add humour too along with everything else.
I think that it is so very very important that children are fed the food of good and fun poetry with all of these elements in it when they are small. They will know from nursery rhymes read at night, the soothing element that is to be found from listening to rhythmic and rhyming poetry, but they do not realize that inside of them is also being nurtured the association between this and healing. I think that I wrote as I did because deep inside of me there was something which told me that comfort is to be found in poetry, just as there is from the music that you enjoy and the songs that you enjoy. Dancing also has this effect. I would go as far as to say personally that all of these things are like plugs in a basin. They are the means of letting go of what hurts and seeing it all run down a drain. I think you will smile when I tell you that adults love my children's poems as much as the children, and the funny ones are the best. I've laughed so much when I've had to record a really funny poem that sometimes I've had to record it up to ten times. Well you try reading a poem which speaks about buying something from the internet to increase your size and then trying it on your prize marrow. I don't know how the teachers ever read it to their classes without bursting into laughter - and it's the laughter that is so therapeutic. Try rewriting children's nursery rhymes if you want to laugh. Some of the men got quite carried away with it on the Great Writing website. Some of their nursery rhymes had to be moved away from the children's page. ha ha. My grandchildren, as small as they are, and even before they spoke much, knew when their granny had changed a nursery rhyme. When I read "Hickory Dickory Dock, there's too many miles on my clock, and just for spite, my hair's turned white, Hickory Dickory Dock." They said: "Have you heard the one about the mouse?"
I get lots of letters from people who write to tell me how much my poems have helped them in different ways, and they are only a small percentage of the people who come to my website, but to me it is my payment for having put my words onto paper. As I am not mentioning names here, I can tell you some of the things that have come to my inbox: They usually tell me one particular poem which they have enjoyed, and often it is a poem I least expect. I had a letter from an accountant in a New York office who kept my poem “Riggaldy Raggaldy Scarecrow” on his desk because it made him laugh, and when he felt stressed, the laughter relaxed him. I could not imagine a children’s poem such as this sitting on an accountant’s desk. I wondered: “Did he put an important book over it and then peep underneath when no-one was looking?” “What did the others in his office think when he suddenly burst into laughter?” And, did he tell them? Perhaps he and others in the financial sector may find my poem about Mr Greedy and the Money Tree not so funny in the present economic climate, because poor Mr Greedy was so worried about his money tree that he died before he ever reaped the fruit. To make you laugh, I often write a poem when I am waiting for people to come on Skype. I was waiting for an Italian friend (very much into investments) to come onto Skype and practise our languages together. I knew he had gone to see his financial adviser as per usual and I wrote this poem as a joke. How he laughed at it when he eventually arrived.
Then I had a letter from a young man, aged 22 years, in Karachi, who wrote and told me that my poems were helping him so much with his English. He said that as a result of the voice recordings, he was hoping to speak like Tony Blair, and thanked me for he said I spoke as if I was an older sister to Tony Blair. (Not true I'm glad to say, but was it a compliment or not?). He later told me that he had downloaded my poems onto an ipod and listened to them when he went to bed, for his mother, who had very recently died, used always to read poetry to him when he went to bed, and so he associated the soothing qualities of the poetry that had been read to him by his mother with mine. I think I became a temporary mother-replacement to help him with his loss. I didn’t mind.
I had a letter from a teenager in Sydney who had moved there from China. He too was using my poems to help him with his English. In his case he wrote to tell me that he wanted to work for peace in the world and thanked me for the poems I have written on this very subject. He said that peace in this world was his dream and he noticed that it was mine also for I had written:
Send me a dream of a world that’s at peace –
Where hatred has gone, but where love can increase.
Send me a dream where man’s uncaring thought
Is banished completely and where caring is sought.
Send me a dream where pollution has vanished –
Where we walk on two feet, with motor cars banished.
Send me a world where friendship has worth –
But I think that my dreamworld is not on this earth.
I have had lots of letters from people who are using my poem “Ode to the Bluebells” in funeral services, for it speaks of new life rising from death. The bluebells push up through the dead leaves that lie in the woodlands. Step by step there is a new awakening in this poem. It is one of the poems that came to my mind very quickly when I was at an emotional low in life. It is a Victorian ballad, but goodness me! I didn’t know a ballad from a sonnet when I wrote it and I have not changed one word of it.
I believe that often artists do their best work when they are under emotional strain in their lives for sometimes a hidden force seems to take over. You will find this in numerous instances, whether it is art, music, literature, poetry etc. It enters into every art in its creation. There are many articles which you can read to back up this, and if you come to my “Worth Reading” page, I will direct you to them. One man has opened a healing library where people can find material which has really helped them through their difficult times. If you can recommend anything, please do write and I can do this also recommending poems on this website.
I could even recommend that for people who want to get away from it all to a healing area, to contact me, for I cannot think of a more healing area of the world than the Yorkshire Dales. You need only look at my own photographs to know that I am right. I would be pleased to recommend accommodation and a place to write and meet others. I have been there and I know how important it is to get away from everything and to find spiritual calm or even just to have some fun to give you a lift in life. So write to me if you would like this. I have read that there are courses for self healing through writing that have been prescribed for centuries. I also read that a significant percentage of good poets do need professional care from time to time. On the Great Writing website that I belonged to, it was amazing to find so many people writing poetry who were suffering extreme emotional stress, but they were pouring it all out into writing that really got everyone else around them down. I think that in order to soothe the soul, people should read happy writing, writing that gives them a lift, and that they should try to write about the things which have brought them happiness in life, far away from the ones which are causing the problems.
Having said this I have found that people's emotions are most highly charged and their artistic side comes to the fore more when they are unhappy or stressed than at any time. Enough!