July 24, 2024


Art Is Experience

Reading and Writing Poetry to Release Childhood Pain

Healing from childhood hurts can happen through expressing them and sharing them. One powerful way to express emotional pain is through poetry. Did you know that when people express difficult feelings, they can release their emotional pain? Writing in general as a way of healing is well documented in books like Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions by James Pennebaker.

And writing poetry is famous as a vehicle for emotional release. There are hundreds-if not thousands-of examples of poems focused on difficult memories from early years. One delightful book on the power of writing about childhood experiences is This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski.

If you are not ready to write down your own memories, reading this sort of poetry can help you let go of your pain in a cathartic process, even if it’s not exactly about your situation. Because of the connection between poetry and the emotions, if you read poems, you can tune in to feelings, just as a tuning fork vibrates at a certain frequency whether it is used for a piano or a violin. Releasing painful childhood memories can happen for readers through the vibrations of words on a page.

If you read poetry about childhood experiences, and let it settle in your being, you can start letting go of your own pain by vicariously experiencing the magical, even spiritual, cathartic process that has gone on inside the poet. The twentieth Poet Laureate Consult in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the great William Stafford, underscored the power of that process by noting he would trade all his published poems (and there were more than sixty books full of them) for the felt EXPERIENCE of writing the next one. That powerful emotional experience of writing poetry can be felt by reading it, as well-that’s the connection. Reading poems that express other people’s childhood pain can help you let go of your own.

Best of all, reading poetry about childhood hurts can set an example of how to write your own. Poetry about childhood can be in whatever form you want to set it down on the page. Just be sure to be as honest as you can be at that moment. And, it’s never too late: William Stafford was forty-eight years old when his first collection of poetry was published, Traveling Through the Dark. Reading poetry about other people’s childhood hurts can help you see how easy it could be to get started writing your own.