Poetic medicine

It’s a little bittersweet to think about how it is at the end of every semester — that mishmash of relief, pride, and sadness at wrapping up with a group of students. I’d be getting in the mood to grade a bunch of creative portfolios over the winter break if I were teaching. But I’m not teaching.

Before I would let them go, I always made them read things like this: Dorothea Lasky’s little pamphlet about what poetry is not. It’s a happy message, so go read it…

title page of Dorothea Lasky's Poetry Is Not a Project
by Dorothea Lasky (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010)

When people talk about poetry as a project, they suggest that the road through a poem is a single line. When really the road through a poem is a series of lines, like a constellation, all interconnected. Poems take place in the realm of chance, where the self and the universal combine, where life exists.

Dorothea Lasky

Her call to deeper intuition is right on. Non-linear thinking, yes. Note: non-linear thinking does not mean sloppy thinking. It means understanding, in the eternally deepening way that understanding always goes.

Another thing she says in the pamphlet: “If poems aren’t projects, then what are they really? The truth is, I don’t really know exactly how to tell you in a way that makes sense to you in a paragraph. I really can only tell you in a poem.”

That’s true for me, too. So I wrote a poem about what poetry is.



Be your best self

with a song in your heart and perfect rhymes in your mind. Patients who take a prescribed course of POETRY have been shown to experience a 152% increase in wit, self-confidence, and insight. Ask your favorite care provider if a trial dose of POETRY might be right.

POETRY is not for everyone. See the brief summary below for additional information about the usage and risks of POETRY.



The most common side effects of POETRY in readers include: heartache, nostalgia, temporary blindness from tears, uncontrollable sighing, a temporary high like sunshine on your shoulder, impulsive singing of Taylor Swift songs, sudden onset of sobbing or giggling, binge watching of “My So-Called Life” episodes with questioning of one’s life trajectory, unforeseen enrollment in an MFA program or disappearance to a mountain retreat for several weeks, birdsong sensitivity, bouts of existential nausea, falls (into or out of love), new or worsening caffeine addiction, increased melancholy and/or increase in phone calls to one’s mother, intrusive thoughts of others’ sufferings (including but not limited to those of refugees, the unjustly accused, and the little kid at the end of your street whom you’ve observed constantly bullied), frequency of staring into space, taking up obsessive new hobbies, not watching where one is going (or deliberately taking the long way around in order to meander through an orchard, a meadow, a forest, an unfamiliar neighborhood, or a garden), social justice activism (often including the making of poetic signs of protest), running for political office (often quoting POETRY in your campaign speeches), and a spike in spending on books, new and old.

These are not all of the possible side effects of POETRY. Visit your local slam or open mic for advice about side effects. This is a brief summary of the most important information about reading and enjoying POETRY. For more information about POETRY, go to your local library.

POETRY is not indicated for any condition, as these claims have not been approved by any prevailing authoritarian entity.

Active ingredient: compassion

Other ingredients: imagery, metaphor, syntax, diction, enjambment, rhyme, meter, connotative leaps, context, humor, intuition, puffy clouds and natural flavor

Manufactured by Human Imagination, Ink.

Everyplace, Planet Earth 8000000000

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