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Finding Connections through Poetry

Thursday night, I went to a talk by one of my colleagues, the brilliant Geri Chavis. A licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. in Literature, Geri is an international leader in the area of poetry and story therapy. She’s written a number of books on writing and healing, including most recently, Poetry and Story Therapy: The Healing Power of Creative Expression (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). She also writes about literature of the Romantic period and teaches courses on the depiction of courtship in novels.

With such a varied background, it isn’t surprising that Geri’s talk was all about making connections. She spoke of parallels between ideas that seem at first glance to be utterly different. She drew links between painting, fiction, music, and poetry. She talked about how one branch of science or scholarship can intersect with many others, and how artists are influenced—sometimes subconsciously—by each other.  

We did a lot of short writing at Geri’s talk. She gave us stimulating writing prompts that launched us off onto quick poems and mini-essays. As a professor, I loved seeing the enormous energy and excitement in a large auditorium full of college students. I couldn’t help thinking how much I longed to rouse that kind of enthusiasm in my classes. As a writer, I found myself coming up with ideas almost faster than I could write them down.

I came away with a dozen things to say—and I’ll be exploring some of them in this blog in the days to come—but for today, I just want to share a poetry-writing technique that I enjoyed.

Geri certainly didn’t invent the acrostic poem, in which the first letters of a word are used to start each line. In fact, greeting cards sometimes employ acrostics to create insipid verses out of words like “mother” and “friend.” But when Geri used the word “welcome” to create a thought-provoking acrostic poem, it made me realize that this technique has more to it than I’d previously thought.

I’m not a poet, and I don’t generally share my attempts at poetry, mainly because I know people who write way better poetry than I do. So I’m just sharing the little poem below as an idea for what a person (even one who is definitely not a poet like myself) can do with this simple technique. The word I chose to write from is “fire.”

 

Forcing myself to light up from within

I

Reach upward, above my head, above the roof over my head, above the sky over my head to find

Every star on fire.

 

Try it. It’s fun. It can bring up unexpected ideas. And it can help you find—as Geri pointed out on Thursday night—connections. If you wish, share your poems here.