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writing and healing

I tripped across this beautiful, well-constructed website http://writingandhealing.org/ that brings poetry into the self-awareness and healing process.  The Healing Poetry page provides great examples for trying moments.  I enjoyed the reminder of “The Peace of Wild Things.”  Since I’m lacking a woods, my version of this is to sit on the front porch steps in the dark of one in the morning.

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

When I write – especially poetry – I always seek to use “power verbs” wherever possible.  It’s never, “I was angry.” I’d wait for words like froth, seethe, frizzle, clench, etc. to come to me.  After listening to a TED talk while out on a walk today, I recognize that verb tense – especially the subjunctive – can wield great emotional power.

Think of the line, “I coulda been a contender.”  Sure, Brando’s intense delivery iconized it.  Brando2But imagine that same line if it had been written, “I was never a contender,” or “I wasn’t a contender,” or “I never saw myself as a contender.” Even tripping from Brando’s lips, they don’t have the same power.  There’s no wistfulness, no regret, no loss, no ‘what might have been’.  That emotion all comes from the world “could” (the subjunctive tense) in there.

In the TED talk, I learned there are many languages that have no subjunctive and it likely influences those cultures and their beliefs.  Since we (English-speakers) do have the  woulda-coulda-shoulda, what has that done to us? I wonder if I were to keep my thoughts in simple tenses, will it affect my ability to stay present?  Ha!  pun.