How 5 Days of Reading Poetry Can Transform Your Emotions
Written by Noelle Smith
Mental health is a huge focus in 2019, and I’m sure will continue to be over the years to come. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression since I was younger, I have found outlets in music, writing and all things art. I can sit at my laptop and write for hours or hang out by the pool with a book in hand until I’m the color of a lobster; mind you, I’m pale. Poetry has evoked a variety of emotions from me over the years and I have even tried my own hand at it, at a reading. I had not planned to do so, but I was so evoked by all the other poets and emotions, I could not help myself.
I decided to test the limits and control of my emotions with five days of reading poetry. For the sake of keeping it a controlled testing, I decided to read poems all written by the same poet: E.H, Erin Hanson. I first came across Hanson on Pinterest and something about her work struck fire in my soul and made me feel a way that I hadn’t in a long time. Erin Hanson is a nineteen-year-old Australian-based writer who has a huge selection of poetry to read from. For this experience, I have decided to search through my Pinterest board of “Quotes and Inspiration” to read her work at random.
Also, check out Hanson’s three books, all entitled The Poetic Underground (#1,#2 and #3) here.
*Please be advised that this article dives into deep emotions, so please be mentally prepared prior to reading*
Day 1: Monday
“You are not your age,
Nor the size of clothes you wear,
You are not a weight,
Or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name,
Or the dimples in your cheeks,
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak,
You are your croaky morning voice,
And the smiles you try to hide,
You’re sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried,
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you’re all alone,
You’re the places that you’ve been to,
And the one you call home,
You’re the things that you believe in,
And the people that you love,
You’re the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of,
You’re made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined,
By all the things you’re not.”
Monday was a pretty relaxed day for me; I woke up, got ready for work and then left in time for my much needed Monday coffee. While waiting for coffee in a crowded nook of the shop, I decided this would be a prime opportunity to read my poem for the day. I scrolled through my Pinterest board starting from the bottom, and I chose the poem above at random. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but notice the tear forming in my left eye and didn’t think to see if anyone else noticed as well. I continued reading with full focus. I just stared at my phone screen for a moment in admiration of what I just read. A rush of emotions and thoughts flooded my mind. “Was this poem written about me?”, “Am I not alone with these thoughts?”, “Clearly she thought them too or this poem would not exist”, “But why? Why is it that society makes us feel we have to be a certain way and that the insignificant factors in life are what determine who we are? My weight is something I have struggled with over the past several years, so the mark about not being your weight almost revealed a part of me.
Day 2: Tuesday
“Be careful with your heart
Though you’ve not known something so deep,
There is limit to the secrets
Even the strongest one can keep.
And if you force them ever downward;
Each one pressed against the last,
All of your newest take the features
Of the secrets from your past.
Then one day without warning
You’ll bite your tongue just once too often,
And you’ll feel the heavy casing
Around your heart begin to soften.
Until there is no way of stopping
The flood of feelings you held down,
And it is then you must decide
If you let go or if you frown.”
Tuesday was not the most ideal day for me. I have been experiencing intense migraines and Tuesday was the height of the week for them. I sat at my desk only two hours into my shift, in pain and mildly cranky because I had to be there for another six hours. For some reason this poem made me slightly more angry while enlisting a wholesome dose of sorrow. I’m not exactly sure why this poem made me feel anger, but it did.
Day 3: Wednesday
“I missed you for far too long,
In too many ways,
That it became just another part of me;
Engraved deeper into my heart with the passing of time.
I would wake up,
And miss you.
They told me to let it go,
To let you go,
And I would say;
You cannot simply will your heart to stop beating,
That no matter how long you hold your breath for,
You cannot hold it forever,
And I could only stop missing you,
If I stopped being myself entirely.”
Wednesday was a relaxed day for the most part. I almost forgot about reading my daily dose of poetic treasure due to running a few errands and hanging by the pool with my boyfriend for the better half of the day. That night as we sat in bed, I was scrolling through my account to find a poem to read, the screen stopped scrolling and this is what it stopped on. I enlarged it, read the first line and almost quit reading. Preface of myself; I got my heart broken last year, the type of broken where it shatters into a million tiny pieces and takes months to fix, then you realize you didn’t put them in the correct spots, so you had to try again. The ultimate adult Tetris. It took months of healing and an inexcusable and embarrassing amount of unanswered phone calls for me to finally move on. A few months later, I moved to Dallas to reinvent myself and start my own business, and had been quite successful in doing so; then I met him. I met a man I didn’t know I was searching for and didn’t know I needed. A man that made all in the past seem unparalleled; he made my eyes flutter, my heart skip and my cheeks rosy red with admiration. This poem was interesting for me because I am in complete awe of how this man makes me feel, that I couldn’t relate to this poem any longer. Yes I know, sounds cliché, but it’s truthful. I wish the best for my ex(es), but I do not miss them or dwell on their well-being any longer.
Day 4: Thursday
“She smelled of books and stories,
Of all the worlds she’d lived within,
As though the ink had left the pages,
To find a new home in her skin,
She didn’t quite belong here,
Lived a life within her head,
Like she’d slipped out from the covers,
Of a paperback instead,
And you’d see it in her eyes,
That they were deeper than a well,
She was a library of stories,
That we’d beg of her to tell,
When she spoke the world would listen.
To the adventures of her mind,
For if there’s such a thing as magic,
Then it was something she could find,
And her heart had looked much further,
Then her eyes had ever seen,
She’d walked on words to places,
Her two feet had never been,
It’s years now since she moved,
And we all failed to keep in touch,
So her memory’s all faded,
Like a book you’ve read too much,
But if she hoped to leave us ink-stained,
She should know she did succeed,
For even now we all still look for her,
In every book we .”
As I sat waiting impatiently at the chiropractor to be relieved of the pain from a pinched nerve and migraines, I decided that reading my daily poem would be a suitable way to get the pain off my mind. This time I decided to Pinterest search Hanson’s work and scrolled down a few before selecting one at random again. I read this poem, then read it again. I looked up at the other patients waiting, and they were all on their phones too. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of sadness. Technology has become a big part of how we interact with people, but often it is the only way. While I’m grateful I can Facetime my Dad in North Carolina or my grandpa in Massachusetts, I can’t help but feel sadness for the loss of human interaction. While, yes, I still interact with humans on a daily basis (getting coffee, my job as a kitchen designer, coming home to my boyfriend), I still don’t think it compares to fifty, twenty or even five years ago. I didn’t grow up in a time where the poetic beauty of hand written letters with black ink on wilted paper was what lovers did. I still remember in elementary school when we had pen pals, I used to await anxiously for the day to read what our far away, unfamiliar friend wrote. He connected through words on paper that were written and exchanged for sake of sometimes just saying, “Hey, how are you today”. But now we use a laptop with Ariel or Calibri font to write an email that gets sent to spam way too often. I also thought of how much I loved to read, and how little I do now as an adult compared to when I was a child. I used to sit in the front yard under this massively large tree with a blanket and snack and read. I would read for hours, only looking up when a horn honked too loudly or when the dogs ran up to me for attention. I crave the ending of books like I crave coffee on a Monday morning.
Day 5: Friday
“They witnessed her destruction,
Then were left to wonder why,
She saw nothing but darkness,
Though the stars shone in her eyes,
But maybe they’d forgotten,
When they failed to see the cracks,
That a star’s light shines the brightest,
When it’s starting to collapse.”
Friday was the day I handed in my resignation letter; a bittersweet moment. All day I was on a high from the memories and the forthcoming. On my lunch break I decided to treat myself, so I went to Chick-fil-a (doesn’t take much to make me happy). I ordered my food, sat down and pulled up my last poem of the week; another bittersweet moment. My high came to a sudden halt as I read this poem. I couldn’t help but be curious as to what life events have happened to this young adult for her to be able to write such sorrowful tales. Or could it be that her imagination is so powerful it can construct these stories that connect to many individuals. I have witnessed destruction and I have witnessed salvation, both of which have evoked the same feelings this poem did. Distressed, anxious, appreciative, disheartened.
To my surprise, I am sad that my five days of reading poetry has ended. The emotions that they evoked were a whirlwind, and I may consider continuing this venture with other writers in the future, maybe once a month.
I am a Dallas based personal stylist, photographer and blogger, the owner of Noelle Smith Personal Stylist and Photographer. I created my own degree in college focused on fashion merchandising and business management with secondary focuses on marketing, psychology and communications. I have several years of experience in fashion and writing with several internships. I am a cat loving, taco eating craft beer enthusiast who loves to smile and be goofy.
All of my social media accounts are @thenoellesmith