The late poetess Sylvia Plath once said, “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” Hot baths are nice, but people deal with things in different ways. It is interesting that Sylvia Plath would find comfort in a bath, rather than her art. Recently, psychologists have been talking about “The Sylvia Plath Effect”. It shows that of all the different types of artists, female poets are the most likely to suffer from mental illness. Apparently, poets do not benefit from their work because it does not tell a narrative. People who write stories go through a therapeutic process while writing, examining every detail and building upon a sturdy beginning, middle, and end. How can this be, when writing poetry is what gets me through the day?
I believe that poetry is the best medicine. It is a quick drug. What other type of art form allows the freedoms of poetry? A visual artist can’t always draw what exactly is plaguing his mind, or put the pencil in the exact spot to make something pleasing to the eye. People always have words available for their use; only the arrangement is important. You don’t need an easel, paintbrush, or musical instrument to write poetry. You don’t really even need a pen, if you’ve got a good memory. Maybe I would benefit more from writing prose, but I have become so comfortable living in poetry. As a spontaneous person, I don’t have the time or energy to plan things out. When I “abandon” a poem, I don’t feel guilty about it. I accept that maybe it wasn’t meant to be written.
Poetry also connects me to people. There is this whole underground online poetry movement happening at this moment. It’s basically a bunch of twenty something year old writers who live in New York and call themselves pretentious and immature… but I think it’s art. My favorite poet was nice enough to publish me in the online literary magazine that he edits. Do they know that I’m only sixteen? I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter to me; the point is that I don’t know anybody else who thinks like these people do. I owe my sanity to them. I used to be embarrassed of some of the things I wrote, because they were too “urgent” and “postmodern”. Meeting this community of writers has helped me develop the one skill that is more important to me than anything else: being able to write down how I feel.
I don’t want to make my love for poetry seem selfish; I also believe in the power poetry has to heal other people. Many times, I have written something “mediocre” that didn’t mean much to me. Other people read it, and say that they can really relate. Once, a reader wrote to me that my poem calmed her down when she was angry. Getting comments like this makes it all seem worth it. The Sylvia Plath Effect may be true, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have much if I didn’t write poetry. I love poetry with all of its flaws, even the totally unpredictable nature of it. I am woken up in the middle of the night quite often just to write something down. A good friend of mine once told me that “The best time to write is when you can’t sleep,” and I can’t think of a better reason to stay awake.
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