Poetry as a Step Toward Healing

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than the comments section of race-related articles. 

Except writing poetry, probably. 

I know, two very different topics to navigate. I'm months away from finishing my Masters in Creative Writing, so I decided to take a poetry class despite the fact that it scared me deeply. 

What if it isn't good? What if it's stupid? 

I've always loved reading poetry, but sometimes it's hard to move into a place where you feel like you don't belong. I was pushed out of comments sections online a long time ago when I realized that my mental health wasn't worth being trolled by the same people who love pieces of my culture, but not me. So if I was going to be in a class weaving my way through a genre where I felt like I had no business? I was GOING to write about things I wanted to, damnit. 

As I wrote my poems each week, making sure to finesse my thoughts on race relations into each prompt, I started feeling like less of an outsider to the form. The assignments stopped feeling like homework. For the first time, I understood what it meant to create a seat at the table for myself rather than waiting for an invitation.

I braced myself for the white tears that would come from my classmates, but they never did. Even more shocking, we had real CONVERSATIONS about my writing that weren't the bare minimum kind you see for the sake of earning a participation grade. I wrote about everything from others trying on black culture, to what my experiences have been growing up as a black woman in the South. Not once was I silenced, and each time my classmates uplifted my words and presented amazing feedback to say even more. My professor was even bold enough to tell me he believed that I was holding back, and for that I'll forever be grateful. 

For the first time, I understood what it meant to create a seat at the table for myself rather than waiting for an invitation.

Stepping out into the unknown made me realize that I have control, even when the world wants me to think otherwise. In my final portfolio for the course, I walked away with a handful of poems that I'm anxious to have published. Who knows? Maybe I'll even drum up the courage to read them out loud from the seat I've prepared for myself. 

 

When has a new experience provided you with unexpected clarity and renewed confidence in your existence and power as a person of color as opposed to creating more fear? Let me know in the comments!