The power of poetry. Poetry lets us be ourselves – in a way which the world and its usual conventions do not provide. Stigma is everywhere – a mire, that sucks at my boots and hides me under heavy blankets in the summer when I should be breathing and listening to birds sing.
I can’t go to work and say to a colleague: I stay up late at night imagining animals being hit in the road over and over… they would – well, they would be afraid, or find me weird, maybe word would get out that I am a freak, and I would get fired eventually. In the real world I stay quiet. My thoughts are not appropriate for casual “normal” interactions. I struggle to think about what to say that won’t be upsetting to those around me.
In my head, thoughts ticker tape behind my eyes – pondering the evil of the world, the death I’ve seen, the addictions I harbor, the polluting tailings of mental illness and suicide… I need to tell someone, what I know, what I’ve seen. That someone is a blank page – it is all of you.
Without poetry, I am deathly quiet. I’ve learned to be in the world, and even function – but it is on the terms of what others can handle. It leaves me feeling isolated, wrong, broken, monstrous, and it leads to the slide, the slide down the slippery mud banked slope of “I am not normal. I am not ok. I am sick”.
With poetry, it’s different. My darkest thoughts are heard and validated. Even if they are shocking, they are somehow appropriate. Others get it. Not everyone, but some always find a way to say, “hey thanks for writing that, I have felt that way too.” In the poetry world, I am not a freak. I am not an outsider, struggling for casual placticationS at birthday parties… trying not to weird out the other moms. I don’t stand in a corner, praying for a reason to leave.
And, I don’t really want to leave. I want to be a part of things. I want to be loved and accepted by a tribe, by a community. Poetry is unique. It is nonjudgemental. It lets the sick, the wounded, the different, the uncomfortable into its berth with open arms. It even celebrates the ugliness I can be.
I was quiet my whole life. I never told these stories – because when I did, I was told to go to therapy, or told by police, that my testimony didn’t matter, or told by guidance counselors to go to community college – or told by others, “not to tell, not to get him in trouble”. I was told to shut the fuck up, or face consequences of being different, ostracized, not believed, or put in a mental jail cell. I was put in a mental institution. Twice.
Poetry gives me a voice – even if my voice is wrong or right or sick or singing the songs of angels. But it never tells me to shut up. Poetry never tells me to be quiet. That is the gift and power of poetry, and more so, the gift of this literary community, creating safety and honor to the (weird, loving, sick, demented, wounded, brave, yearning, creative, fearless, surviving) people who write it. And I am so grateful for that. Thank you. Eli <3
Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature from Vermont advocating for animals, children and those suffering alone and in pain – especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. She is Co-Editor at Ice Floe Press and Editor in Chief at Animal Heart Press. She has several chaps and collections coming out this year including Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy at Fly on the Wall Press, Odd list Odd house Odd me at Twist It Press, and Was It R*pe, from Rhythm and Bones Press. She is a poetry mentor and proud momma to Peter and Thomas. She recently earned her MFA from Lindenwood University and received a 2018 Best of the Net Nomination from Midnight Lane Boutique and a 2018 Pushcart Nomination from Cease Cows. Follow her @ehoranpoet & (link: http://ehoranpoet.com) ehoranpoet.com