Multi-faceted creative, Raphael Love has written a brilliantly observant piece titled, Poetry’s Going To Save Your Life.
Raphael Love is an art-pop artist and poet who appreciates the significance of an evocative lyric. Before he released his melancholic debut single, Love had already finished two novels and a collection of poetry. Much to our delight, he’s offered us a new poem that explains the stream-of-consciousness approach to writing, crafted for a contemporary audience.
So, get a cup of tea ready and prepare for Love to widen your perspective. This is Poetry’s Going To Save Your Life, which Love describes as “a sincere but light-hearted mindfulness offering about poetry as mediation – something plenty of people could do with when surrounded by lockdowns”.
Poetry’s Going To Save Your Life
Well, it’ll try…
So, we all know you the stereotypes around poetry, rhymes, feelings, berets and a whole lot of ‘thou art’.
Now, take those stereotypes and put them in the nearest recycling bin. The poetry we’re talking about is Stream of Consciousness Poetry. Never heard of it? Doesn’t matter, it might just save your life (hopefully).
We’re presented with three questions here – ‘What is Stream of Consciousness Poetry’; ‘How is it going to save my life’; and ‘Why in the world should I care about this when I’ve got so many other things to focus on?”
I’ll answer all three, but I’ll start at the end.
‘Why should you care?’ For that, we must look a few decades back to 1966.
Within the tranquil Tassajara Monastery of San Francisco, Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki gave a lecture on the clouded nature of the everyday mind. He spoke of each of our thoughts, emotions, fears and observations as being a sentence on the blank page behind our eyes. Over the course of time, we accumulate knowledge and memories, and with that, our page also accumulates, far quicker than it fades. And that’s where we can find ourselves sometimes, with nothing but a page full of scribblings in ink – overlapping so much you can’t see the white for the blue – and that’s when we feel the weight, the overwhelm. But imagine if we could take those sentences from the page and clear it all the way back to its blank nature. Over time, that kind of clear mind could end up saving your life, or at least saving your sanity, and that’s worth caring about.
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Now, how does poetry fit into all of this? Poetry is your claw machine, catching the sentences before the ink even dries on the page. For this, I’ll make a reference to Harry Potter. In the books and films, Harry’s beloved mentor, Professor Dumbledore, makes use of an item of called a ‘Pensieve’, this being a large dish of stone filled with clear liquid. Within the narrative, the Professor removes from his mind the ghostly strand of a memory or thought, to not only be viewed at a later point, but to diminish the weight of it on himself. And that is exactly what we’re going to be doing. Poetry will be our ghostly strand.
The style of poetry in this case, is of due importance. Stream of consciousness features no strict measure, no rhyme, no presentation requirements, and sometimes might even make no sense at all. The core direction, however, is just to write. If you find yourself burdened in your everyday by a stressor, a depressing moment, or an unhappy memory – don’t let it sit in your mind like a fog. Find your phone or a pen and write. Do 4 lines, 7 lines, or as many as you choose until you feel that moment pass from your mind and into the poem. Ensure you write about what is weighing on you – explore it, let it flow out and release the pressure.
That all sounds simple, but the main point to remember – don’t think about what word must follow the next. Don’t aim for it to be pretty or sonorous, instead, let your consciousness guide you and allow the internal voice to ramble freely. The words can be absurd and abstract, but as long as the meaning from that moment is sealed in them, then the claw machine is doing its work, and the mind’s page will be one sentence clearer.
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I’ll try one now, for example.
‘Tide and time under eternal sun
Of gust and worry
Of grace and dreams unforgiven
In the Nebraska nighttime
Overlooking farmer’s fields of dew drop
As long as it is forgiven
It sits at peace.’
And there you go, simple as that. It means not a lot to the naked eye, to the mind it means the road to clarity.
Your takeaway – try writing a poem once a day. Take a second for yourself and let the consciousness breathe. And, if you’re feeling like getting the most out of it, write one when intruded by those downward-facing thoughts, take out the ghostly strand and ease the weight. Rinse and repeat and you’ll soon start to notice the page clearing.
Now, as you finish reading, I’ll leave you with a little tip from our old friend, Shunryu Suzuki, just to help you as you go on in your day. Take a breath in. Hold it for a second. And exhale smoothly, without trying too hard, and focus, before breathing in again, on that second or two right at the end of your breath, as you sit totally empty of air and totally quiet.
Be sure to check out Raphael Love’s single, The Same Dream below: