Today’s guest post was written by the ever-cheery and wholesome Shira Trick, a poetess and all-around thoughtful person.
How Can Poetry Be a Force for Change?
I asked myself this question a few months ago and at the time I really didn’t have an answer. Truthfully I still don’t have an answer, but I have some ideas that I thought I’d share. Hopefully they’ll provoke further discussion and a deeper understanding, as all meaningful discussion should!
In the culture I grew up in, poetry is often seen as a stream of meaningless words that are depressing, elusive, boring and, while they may have fleeting significance, they generally don’t have any real purpose, any use in the world. Poets are viewed as emo, depressed, suicidal, socially awkward or English fanatics and the purpose of poetry is to serve as a tool for sharing one’s own feelings with others or dealing with negative emotions—both selfish, ego-focused reasons for writing.
As someone who has written poetry for many years but had never actually called herself a “poet”, the realization that I in fact am a poet was shocking. With this discovery came the question that is the title of this article. How can poetry be a force for change? Why do I write? If this is something that I would like to do throughout my life, how can I be sure that what I am doing is contributing to the betterment of the world? How can I be sure that I don’t fall into the same pits that many poets before me have fallen into? How do I make sure that my poetry helps me and those who read it to develop spiritually and to become agents of change, without promoting myself or focusing my thoughts too much on my own success or artistic ability?
I think the first experience I had that led me to think about this subject was a class I took in which we studied a tablet(what is a tablet?) by Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith, called the “Fire Tablet“. In this tablet Bahá’u’lláh begins by sharing, in very poetic and beautiful language, all the anguish and pain He experienced on behalf of His followers who were persecuted and imprisoned for their beliefs. It leaves you feeling quite despondent, but halfway through the tablet the language shifts: it is as if Bahá’u’lláh’s higher Self, His soul (the part of Him that conveys God’s message to humanity) speaks to His lower self (the part manifested as a Man on earth), making sense of all that has passed and giving Him hope for the future.
When we sit down to write poetry today, it is often to “get something out” to, “clear our channel” of all the negative emotions and anguish that we are experiencing—and we tend to stop when we’ve reached this point. We feel we’ve let out all we needed to say and we stop, having created a piece of artwork that leaves the reader with many questions and frustrations—but no answers. This trend can be seen in quite a lot of art today: there is a need to show and share the problems of the world, yet we don’t give much thought for how these problems can be corrected. Thus our creations provoke feelings of despair, a lack of control, and a belief that one person cannot make a difference in this world.
One day I kept going after I had reached that point. I had cleared my channel of all the negative emotions and realized that I wasn’t finished. The voice inside me that always has the answers (which I typically shut off and don’t listen to)—you could call it your soul, your higher self, your inner voice or even your connection to God—had something to share with me, some wisdom that could help me see beyond my pain and hurt. So I kept going. Before I would have ended the poem feeling lonely but satisfied, but I finished the poem feeling loved and not alone.
What would happen if every creative person on this earth began asking themselves this question “How can [insert art form here] be a force for change?” We all recognize that in some way or another art moves the soul, stirs something inside us. How much more would our souls be moved and our actions changed if people tried to make their art form a force for good in the world rather than just an outlet for self?