About Poety Matters

Poetry Matters is a home-grown print poetry journal that began in Spring 2006.

Censorship can take many forms. The inability to find a place of publication can be social censorship.

Poetry is freedom. Anyone can write poetry.

Nevertheless, it takes a lot of work to create the poetry that reaches the places only poetry knows.

Whoever you are, wherever you are,
Poetry Matters welcomes you as readers and writers.

Contact me about submissions and subscriptions: poetry.clh@gmail.com

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Poetry as therapy

"The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious.  What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied." Freud (probably a remark made in 1928 to Professor Becker in Berlin)

Or, in the words of Jacques Lacan, who has been referred to as the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud: “I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.”

And what is it about writing poetry that can blur the distinction between conscious and unconscious?  
“[Poetic] language stretches our conceptual frameworks and liberates our thinking. It is a language distinct from that ordinary language use for communication, the language of everyday speech, though it is recognizable within the terms of such ordinary communication. But it is also a language that draws attention to itself as language, a language of materiality, rather than the apparent transparency of ordinary speech in which the reader/hearer is encouraged to forget the words and to move straight to the world to which the words are supposed to refer. Poetic language advertises the writer/speaker’s efforts to encase concepts or objects in sounds and rhythms. The recipient of such a language is therefore encouraged to notice language in use, rather than moving directly to the ‘reality’ or the abstraction to which the words are supposed to refer.” Julia Kristeva

Soranus of Ephesus was the first noted practitioner of poetry therapy as such. He was born in Ephesus, practiced in Alexandria and then Rome. He was one of the chief representatives of the methodical school of medicine in which the rules of practice were simple and based on the theory that attributed all diseases to an adverse state of "internal pores". His suggestions for treatment of nervous disorders resemble modern psychotherapy.

Poetry has power therapeutically because it is a way for patients to "find the truth of their own experience reflected back in a way they can recognise." Dr Kenneth P. Gorelick, psychiatrist, advocate of poetry therapy.

"Poetry can capitalise on the ability to contain self-expression. Feeling and perception may deepen into greater understanding or may be transformed, resulting in emotional reparation, resolution of conflicts, and a sense of well-being." Debbie McCullis, from "Research on Writing Approaches in Mental Health", edited by Luciano L'Abate, Laura G Sweeney.

There are three domains of poetry therapy. 
1. The receptive-prescriptive which uses existing poetry to elicit responses.
2. The expressive-creative, giving a client the chance to write.
3. The symbolic-ceremonial, which is connected to the power of ritual and symbols. from "Poetry Therapy: Using Words to Heal"
by Barbara Trainin Blank, The New Social Worker. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Doctor Poetry

Christopher Race, 2015, "Still Life With Grandmother" 
Pomonal Publishing, Stawell, Victoria.

Sometimes we see a book and we leave it on the shelf. Then we might see the same book again, pick it up, open it to a page, read, and put it back. But the words we read can follow us as we walk down the street. They stir our thoughts and our feelings and beseech us to return. 
That is how I came to sit one day with this book of poetry and read it through from cover to cover and feel restored at the end of it and in better spirits that I had been for a while. It was like sitting down to a delightful and nourishing dinner, which I had been in great need of, in fact, famished for.
In his poetry Christopher Race writes nakedly, adopting no obscuring devices and affectations. He doesn't try to be deep, he doesn't dig for meaning. He just tells it like it is, how he meets it.
          "It's as if no one understands anything.
           And what they do makes them despair
           perhaps I am a budding fool

           for something that will run me down" 
from "A Marked Man"

           "Am I anxious because I am never home?
           But someplace temporary from which I could be evicted 
                                                                             at any moment."
from "Never At Home"

          "Afternoon Shopping"
          "What is this?
           The faces staring out at me from the magazine covers.
           The avocadoes lying in the tray.
           What is this? An old man placing each step
           so carefully in the carpark, followed so
           carefully by a white car looking to park.
           And this? The grey sky, what is this?
           A grey sky low, and rain drops falling
           once or twice.
           Coming out of the supermarket
           I have my plastic bags. What is this?
           Any of this?" 

While the poems appear to be quite autobiographical and are full of details plucked from everyday life, we do not come to know anything much for sure about the man. This is a poet's work - to transform the personal into the universal; to write in a language that is understood by everyone and reaches to the depths of us all, beneath the superficial disguises we don for our various reasons.

          "Desperate to show themselves,
           the impossible selves
           they wish someone else to show them."
from "Who Will There Be"

This poet has understood that this cannot be achieved through abstractions or recording thoughts, but by placing our body within the scene and speaking as we would in normal life, if we could.  

Christopher Race through this ability he has as a poet finds the words for the unsayable, and in so doing, proffers the medicine of consolation. It's okay he says, none of us really knows what we are doing here, so why don't we give up pretending and just be kind to each other. 




Tuesday, 8 August 2017

"Wilderness has no words"

From March 1979

Sick of those who come with words, words but no language,
I make my way to the snow-covered island.

Wilderness has no words. The unwritten pages
Stretch out in all directions.

I come across this line of deer-slots in the snow: a language,
Language without words.

Tomas Transtr├Âmer 

translated by Robin Robertson 

The Deleted World, 2006, Enitharmon Press

What matters is silent. Or is heard, but no words have been used. 
The poet melts into a truth. Attempts to freeze it into words but can only do so by finding the language within, that was there before words. 
Patterns are created that mirror experience, so that the poem contains an image of something that the poet merged into for a moment.