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The healing power of art (poetry). Tuesday October 11, 2016

I listened to the wonderful writer Jeanette Winterson being interviewed on the radio as part of the Writers Festival. She spoke about the healing quality of art, for her it was poetry for others it maybe be music, paintings, sculpture, prose, song lyrics. Jeanette felt that art in the form of poetry saved her as it got her through her depression and self -loathing, back to a place of innocence.

A tough life, Jeanette explained needs a tough language and this is what poetry and literature offers - a language that is powerful enough to say how things really are.

Great poetry (and music, art, song lyrics sculpture) can break through barriers and reveal an emotional truth in such a raw and relatable way that it reaches out to a person in pain.

Jeannette explained how when was very low she would stand at a mirror and read poetry that had meaning for her. She said she could see her face going from tense and twisted to being calm by the end of the poem.

I found that fascinating. I have never tried reading poetry in front of a mirror but I have read a favourite poem over and over in a loud voice. I did find I felt more peaceful after reading it out loud.

She found the poems cut through the noise and hurt so that the wound would open and be cleaned. Eventually the wound would need to be taught to heal itself.

A self-cleaning emotional wound, now wouldn't that be a useful tool. Teaching a wound to heal itself would take time and patience.

It would be different for every person but what a wonderful strategy if we could find a way to work out a way to heal our wounds. Jeanette Winterson found the answer through reading poetry and her writing.

I am a long way from having self-healing emotional wounds but I think it as useful thing to aim for. I find writing helps and will try to read aloud more often and read more poetry.

What do you think of what Jeanette Winterson has explained about the role of art including poetry in the healing process.?

Do you have a special poem, song, painting, book, that has healing qualities for you and what makes it so helpful?

Have you found a way to teach your wounds to be self- healing? What plan worked for you?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Andrew Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 7:28am

Hi Leah... interesting concept although one which I have to admit I haven't tried. I find music, and in particular singing, moves me emotionally more than most other art forms, and when I am down, it can have a strangely uplifting effect. Strange because it can actually bring in the tears, leaving me sobbing uncontrollably like a small child....and yet afterwards I will often feel better. The healing qualities of tears are often overlooked.... so I guess in a way this is a way of self-healing... its just at the time it truly doesn't feel like it!

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 10:55am

Andrew thanks very much for your reply. I am glad that music has helped you. this is interesting that you find that he is a self healing.

Hopeful One Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 7:33am

Hi Leah- enjoyed reading your great blog. I reckon all the activities you mention require a contribution from the right side of our brain where our artistic abilities lie(in left handed people ) as it moderates the activities of the amgdala -the 'flight,fright and freeze centre- and anxiety from the left brain which occurs in depression both squirting harmful cortisol( most depressed and anxious individuals have high cortisol through out the day) rather than the bi modal distribution of unaffected individuals.

The poem that lifts me always is naturally

HOPE by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gales is heard:
And sore must be the storm
That could not abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I have heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in all extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

and a laugh. Lawyers are still in the cross wires I am afraid

A man who had been caught embezzling millions from his employer went to a lawyer seeking a defence. He didn’t want to spend a day in jail. His lawyer told him, "Don’t worry. There's no way you'll go to jail with all that money." And the lawyer was right. When the man was sent to prison, he didn’t have a pound.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:13am

Hi HO Your post came up while I was writing. I loved the poem and the joke and even learnt some stuff about brain function. Thanks :) love TF x

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 10:58am

Hope for 1 thanks for your reply and for sharing the poem.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:00am

TF Hopefulone is a man of many talents that is for sure.

Hopeful One Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 5:32pm

Thank you guys for your lovely comments.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:47pm

My pleasure hopeful one your comments always make me smile andthink.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:07am

Hi Leah
I would go for music over poetry as well because you have an extra dimension as well as the words. I find it most therapeutic if I play it on the piano and sing myself.

The music from Jesus Christ Superstar is a favourite of mine for dealing with turbulent emotions. I might start with "heaven on their minds" (troubled angry rant by Judas) followed by the Gethsemane song (Jesus Initially angry against and then becoming resigned to his fate) followed by Pilates dream (sad and quiet) followed by everything's alright yes (Mary Magdalene dishing out TLC). The first two are physically pretty demanding to play which tends to calm me down by the time I am getting onto the quieter stuff. The last one (I just play the chorus) has great words.

" Try not to get worried,
Try not to turn on to,
Problems that upset you,
Oh don't you know,
Everything's alright,
Yes, everything's fine,
And we want you to sleep well tonight,
Let the world turn without you tonight,
If we try we'll get by,
So forget all about us tonight."

I might have to go and play this last one. But need to wait for my husband to wake up first.

Love TF x

Tutti Frutti Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:20am

I am just re-reading and I think what I mean is very relevant words to me. The words themselves sound much better with the music and I think you do need both to be getting to Emily Dickinson quality.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:02am

TF. Thanks for that your reply and for sharing the song that helps you. I think music and poetry have a lot in common.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:03am

Tf That is an interesting Insight I'll have to think about it.

Orangeblossom Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:11am

Hi Leah, when I have had a difficult experience, I write blank verse to help myself come to terms with the experience. I like your suggestion inspired by Jeanette Winterson, very much. Also thanks for the poem by Emily Dickinson, Hopeful One. Thanks.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:05am

Orange blossom thanks for your helpful comments.

Rob Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:16am

I have a calm folder on my i pod. It consists of the Classic FM calm CD which has poetry read out by the likes of Jenny Seagrove and John Nettles. My favourite is Leisure by WH Davies. "What is life if full of care there is no time to stand and stare"

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:07am

Rob thanks for your comment and your helpful advice. I like your idea of a card folder and of listening to poetry read by actors.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:25am

Rob Sounds interesting thanks. I have a Classic FM chill out CD of music to listen to lying on the sofa when otherwise in danger of going manic. It has things like Debussy's Apres Midi d'un faune on it. I might get your poetry one as well. Thanks love TF x

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:11am

TF Yes I agree Rob has some good ideas..

Peter Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 9:54am

Morning Leah
Thanks for your blog today. Your thoughts have given me an opportunity to again consider why I have written poetry for so many years. It's funny that of all the reasons, I have considered, ablution was not one of them. Thank you again for I have realised that for me it is a cleansing process. A place to express that which is unsayable, or emotionally unpalatable, to move on, to lance the mind of regurgitation and encouraging a return to balance. It is a process where I gather and define, to cast out and relate, to reset brain function.
I particularly liked the idea of the self healing of emotional wounds.
Thanks once again and I hope you have a beautiful day

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:10am

Peter What an interesting comment. There so many useful ideas yet that will give m.e a lot to think about.

George Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 12:14pm

I used to paint in watercolour. That requires concentration but I find the focus is easily lost to intruding thoughts. Writing prose is better; best of all is writing poetry. It requires emotion and intellect to be focused on the writing so that unwelcome thoughts and emotions find it hard to intrude.

Thank you for your blog.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 12:27pm

George Thanks for your interesting comment.

Ruth Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 12:26pm

For when things seem utterly hopeless I always turn to DHLawrence's 'Shadows '. At first it can seem bleak and upsetting but the more you read it the more you realise it is a poem of hope in the most difficult of situations. I nearly always cry but it's the crying of letting go which leaves me feeling so much better.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 12:29pm

Ruth Thanks for your recommendation of Shadows I will look it up.

Mary Wednesday Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 1:26pm

Gerard Manley Hopkins - every time (you get tired of me saying that), also T S Eliot, the poems of Hardy, Philip Larkin. Even their dark poems seem to bring catharsis. some of Shakespeare's soliloquies.... My own poems sometimes. I won't put them here - waaaaaay too self-indulgent!

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:49pm

Mary Thanks for your suggestions I never get tired of hearing other people's ideas about Poetry and anything for that matter. I'm always interested in anything that helps others.

The Gardener Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 3:14pm

Poetry has always left me 'cold'. Pictures more fulfilling as I get old. Music is now more important than ever - as I spend so much time sitting with my 'lost' husband. Scars which will never heal, whatever 'balm' you choose, estranged children. Escapism, really funny writers. Relaxing, looking at water - beautiful or wild - alone.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:52pm

Gardener thank you for your very interesting comments. of course as I said in the blog poetry isn't going to work for everyone and it's good to find out what people find their health and to heal. I have always found watching the waves at a beach very soothing.

Duma Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 5:32pm

Lucid dreaming works for me. Every time.


Courtly romance...

...I try to be a gentleman, so I'll leave that one there.

Travel The Dreamland, take in the sights.

G'wan, you know you want to.

Duma, out.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:55pm

Duma Lucid dreaming I'm not really sure what you mean by that. Did you mean dreams during the day or dreams at night While you sleep. Thanks for your comments I always find them very interesting.

Duma Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 11:39pm

Hi Leah. At night. I have always been aware when I was dreaming, for as long as I can remember. Acting accordingly, taking deliberate actions during one's dreams is what is called lucid dreaming. It's FUN! Thanks, Duma.

Leah Thu, Oct 13th 2016 @ 6:25am

Thanks for explaining. It is a lot different from my dreams.

DAVE Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:46pm

Hi Leah,
My one and only poem is 'Bread' IF...

Because, when in that dark place familiar with all of us who suffer Bipolar depression, a place where no one is able to enter, a place so sad and lonely, alone, but through time and testing of my faith, NOT just reserved for the 'DOWNS', but never forgotten when on the 'UPS''.

A place where even atheists could question.

The place reserved for the closeness of a God who 'Listens' without judgement and offers encouraging words of love, in the powerful warmth within the breast, He who has suffered for me, who came to me many many years ago as a young teenager...A beautiful uplifting poem.

If a picture paints a thousand words,
Then why can't I paint you ?
The words will never show the you I've come to know,
If a face could launch a thousand ships,
Then where am I to go ?
There's no one home but you,
You're all that's left me to.

And when my love for life is running dry,
You come and pour yourself on me.

If a man could be two places at one time,
I'de be with you.

Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.

If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I'de spend the end with you.

And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would al, go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away.


Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 8:56pm

Dave thank you so much for sharing that poem/song. I love it listen to it when I was a teenager.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 9:08pm

Thank you everyone who has repliedwas thinking of replying or has read my blog I really appreciate you all.
I'm away at the moment and have to use my phone which I find very chaso I'm using voice to text so my replies might sound a bit funny.
I look forward to any more comments that people might make later in the night thank you.

the room above the garage Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 9:31pm

Hello Leah, a flying visit from me today, hello and thank you! Love ratg x.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 10:15pm

Hello room above the garage Thank you for your flying visit sweet dreams.

Lexi Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 9:35pm

Jeanette Winterson - her writing had saved me countless times from severe depression in college and post graduation, the "lost years" for me. Her writing could transport me to another time, lift my spirits and give me hope like none other. Her writing is pure art on the page. How could one person come up with such vivid, beautiful imagery? Someone mentioned Shakespeare and he was another. Milan Kundera is yet another. Thank you for the beautiful post and reminder, Leah. I 'm going to get one of her books off my shelf now to reread.

Leah Tue, Oct 11th 2016 @ 10:16pm

ThanksLexi for your comment . it is interesting how different writers affect as a different times of Our Lives thanks for sharing.

Eva Wed, Oct 12th 2016 @ 8:09am

Hi Leah, it's been interesting to read all of the responses, I have found since losing my father in law and dad that I have not chosen to listen to music, previously I loved it so much that I often would have been happy to dissappear into the music and stop existence in those moments of happiness. It's not come back yet. For now I listen to spoken word or read fiction and that does. It's not the same. But I have hope the desire will return.

Leah Wed, Oct 12th 2016 @ 12:08pm

Eva, What an intersting vommint. Grief can affect people in different ways. I hope your jopy for music returns.

Jul Wed, Oct 12th 2016 @ 8:58am

Hello Leah. I am sorry I didn't comment yesterday. I wanted to! My computer wouldn't allow me to (they have so much control over our lives!!) I like some poetry but rarely take time to read it. Music is my means of escape and like Andrew, certain pieces make me cry. I can get totally lost in music. I also make time for novels. I am constantly amazed at how many new books are published which are wonderful to read. I think at one time, the classics were widely read by even young children as there was a dearth of good modern novels. Now I have so many books waiting to be read, It gives me great pleasure to know what delights I have in store. I read when I'm in France and have the luxury of spare time. I am there now. Julxxx PS I haven't read any of Jeannette Winterton. From what I have read about her, I think I'd like her writing.

Leah Wed, Oct 12th 2016 @ 12:10pm

JUl, Thanks for your comment. As always it gives me lots to think about. Music is something that people use to heal and to enjoy. Take care Leahxx

Nicco Tue, Oct 18th 2016 @ 4:52pm

A self-cleaning emotional wound - what a great concept, Leah. I, too, find writing, poetry, paintings, music & lyrics a great help, and agree with Andrew that tears can be very healing and share his sentiments that they don't always feel like it at the time. I loved reading the words to Dave's favourite song - I had forgotten it so it was nice to be reminded.

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