Don’t understand poetry? Perfect.
As a therapist who works primarily with men and couples, I find music and poetry to be essential tools. So many of us don’t “understand” poetry, which is its great gift. I often see my work as getting men out of their minds and into new ways of knowing. Not that our minds aren’t useful. They have been essential in all that we have accomplished and become. It’s just that they are not enough. And the model which prizes minds over body, emotional and spiritual ways of knowing is part of the path that led men to my door.
And you know they didn’t come eagerly. For almost anyone, entering therapy requires a significant amount of pain or desperation; and for most men it is so, but to another order of magnitude. And not surprisingly. Therapy is the container of so many things we have learned to reject or hate—talking about relationships, feeling helpless, opening to feelings, letting go of control. These things may be tough for the feminine, but they are completely against all socialization and training of the masculine. They’re not just indications of weakness, they’re fucking dangerous.
And poetry has a similar nature. Flowery and indirect and indecipherable. It never gets to the point, never just says what needs to be said. It’s confusing and useless. Or so we think, until we hear from
Rick Belden “… she leaves me hot hard swollen animal-buzzing electrified & alive again at last.”
or slam poet Chuck Jackson “… I will choose to be weak and whisper in their ear things my grandfather and father were too strong to ever tell me, shit like ‘I love you’ … ”
or David Whyte “… I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world, with its harsh need to change you, if you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand … ”
or even Mary Oliver “ … Are you breathing just a little and calling this a life? … ”
When poetry provides the clarity of familiar experience, of validation, of communal connection with challenge, of familiar habits, it starts to surprise those of us who want straight talk. Sometimes we have to wade through a lot of crap to get to the nuggets; but the nuggets are there, and they ring true at some place in our awareness that isn’t all logical and linear. And when there is value in something so apparently pointless, the question arises as to what else might we have missed. Maybe even this therapy thing could be worth sitting through for a while.
Read poetry by Steve Milan: “Convalescing in the World of Love and Hurts“: “Rest is a good thing—a sabbath to make sense of what has happened”
—Photo credit: francisco_osorio/Flickr