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What If: A Prompt for Your Forgotten Self, Inner Poet, or Ignored Artist

About nine months ago, I conceived. I remember this lovemaking session vividly. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. This is a PG-rated post, or maybe a Ph.D.-rated post on self-love and how to be. This is the story of how I began to nurture a new me, one I could bring forth into the world, crying, screaming, laughing, and learning

It was early March of 2020, and it had been raining for weeks. We were just starting to hear about the virus that would disrupt our world and our relationships with ourselves, others, and how we see reality. I had signed up to take a class on Poetic Medicine, with the founder of this movement, John Fox. It was dark outside; the days were still short and the nights long. I already felt like I had been quarantined due to the relentless rain that seemed to have stalled over the metro Atlanta area for most of the year. I craved sunshine and a shift in perspective.

I didn’t know a soul when I arrived at the Decatur Healing Arts center. Many of the other attendees seemed to know each other. I didn’t let that bother me, or at least I made a conscious effort not to be concerned about it. I was there to learn about how poetry related to therapy and mindfulness. If ever there was a class tailor-made for me, this was it. I could not miss it. So, I drug myself out of the house and into the cold, gray drizzle to take a seat on a small, hard, folding chair among strangers.

After the words of welcome, John Fox started a slide presentation. “Uh-oh, I thought. This isn’t what I signed up for.” On the screen were poems written by others who had been through this exercise, along with some of his own poems. He read them once, shared some background information, and then reread them. He was talking at us about poetry, trying to show its healing effects. It felt sterile, lecture-y. Intellectually, I agreed with what he was saying, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t integrating and experiencing the transformations for myself. Then, everything change. He asked for our participation.

He gave a prompt, a line from a poem, and asked us to write our own poem about it as quickly as possible without overthinking it. We had five or so moments to do this. I felt a rush of adrenaline, fear, doubt, an egoic desire to produce a masterpiece in less than five minutes. Already, others around me were scribbling on notebooks balanced on their laps. I was wasting time arguing with my better angels. Finally, I heard a voice that said, just tune in and put down whatever comes up, let it flow.

The first prompt was: What if my words. Here’s the poem that came up and out once I tuned into what wanted to emerge.

What if my words

Dried up, shriveled like prunes

Became as barren as the Sub-Sahara

How would I revive them?

Would I learn another language?

Start reading Pablo Neruda

And hope that by saying “nada”

You hear “nothing”

Or, what if my words betrayed me?

Came tumbling out

Clown after clown from a tiny car

Honking and flopping and belching

Every secret absurdity

How would I stuff them back in?

Too little, too much, and still

Words are never quite right

There has to be another equation

Another way of saying

I have no idea what I’m doing

But I like it here.

Rereading this poem now, I can still feel the emotions, the fear that my words might not come, that they may betray me, that others would find them foreign or unrelatable, that somehow all this effort was absurd and silly. That no matter what I wrote or said, it would not come close to capturing what I meant or wanted to say. All those doubts I’d had for years about being a writer, specifically a poet, found their way to the page, and the effect was cathartic.

I was practicing radical self-love and acceptance.

Within every good poem, there is a surprise for the poet. The biggest surprise for me was the way the poem ends. “I have no idea what I’m doing/ But I like it here.” It was one of those Eureka moments. I did not have to know how to do this. I just had to lean into it, let it happen, and try. After all, writing poetry was something I loved to do, and I loved being in a room surrounded by people who loved and valued poetry. I had, in some small way, found my voice again and brought it forward. I was honoring a part of me I’d ignored for too long. I was practicing radical self-love and acceptance.

We took turns reading our poems once, then going around the room and hearing what words or images stayed with people, what they’d gotten from it. Then we reread the poem. Rereading is now part of my practice. I read every poem aloud twice. It’s helped me process the poems more thoroughly.

It was the closest I’d ever felt to being heard, to being understood, to being successful.

I took my first turn, reading What If My Words, with a shaky voice. I waited with a noisy heart to hear what others had to say. “Clown after clown,” someone said. “Honking, flopping, and belching,” someone added. “Dried up, shriveled like prunes,” another said. I was astounded; they had not only listened to my poem; they were able to recall it. Then, John Fox said, “I have no idea what I’m doing/ But I like it here,” and “Woah!” A flood of emotion came up, breaking down the barriers I’d so carefully constructed. It was the closest I’d ever felt to being heard, to being understood, to being successful. It was what my friend Sarah Elkins would call “a rockstar moment.” I read the poem aloud again; this time, there were some audible “Wows.”

Was this what it felt like to be proud of yourself? Was this what honoring your true self felt like? If so, I was hooked. And, it wasn’t just me who fell in love with something inside themselves that night. Reader after reader provided a new glimpse into the heart of our shared humanity, into what it means to wrestle with desire, ego, consciousness, and mortality. There were many more wow-moments. It was like being at a Woodstock for brave words.

Robin Bennetthttps://www.11centsdigital.com/
Robin A. Bennett is a freelance writer and B2B business strategist. She serves industry and new world creative agencies, including Eleven Cents Digital. She is on a mission to elevate humanity and bring art back to commerce. She believes in the sacred word of poets and that nuance, metaphor, observations, and reflections can shift the human heart and bring awareness and attention back to what matters, our oneness. Professionally, she provides highly original, feel-good copy, and big-picture strategies for consultative sales organizations. Personally, she’s committed to helping people regain their sovereignty and find ways to remain human in an increasingly digital matrix. She believes that we need to protect our attention the same way we do our mental, emotional, and physical health.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Robin! This was a fabulously beautiful piece. I agree with your sentiments and love the inclusion of Jung and the Collective Conscious.

    I can feel the peace in your life and in your mindset from reading your words and it made me want more. Your poems were beautiful. Your crowning self is awakened and empowered.

    Thank you for sharing yours words, your heart, and a little bit of your soul.

  2. Robin, this is simply beautifully profound and amazing: “I have no idea what I’m doing/ But I like it here,” …. This is truly where the magic lives for all of us. It is moving from your comfort zone to your growth zone. I will be using this mantra for myself! Thank you for reminding me what ‘brave’ looks like!!

  3. Oh, Simon. That makes me happy!

    I love having a kindred spirit across the pond…

    Writing, whether it’s poetry or not, is such a transcendent experience. If we can get out of our own way, magical and amazing things can come forward. It’s taken me a long time to learn this, and I’m so glad I did. It’s good medicine.

  4. Dear Robin,
    I am sitting overlooking a field with horses and beyond there are trees void of leave, exposing more trees in the distance and rolling hills. The moist has vanished, the grass silver with frost.

    Robin, I have been writing down sentences from your moving, inspirational and highly motivating article.

    Poetic Medicine is an appropriate title because it releases your inner self to grasp; to attract your true self. The poem you you wrote; from the heart, transported your inner self; inner feelings to become not only a self loving gift, but on describing how it was initiated (‘you have ten minutes…’) and how it became a gift to others; your inspiration spread like an infection of creativity. It was you. Writing whatever comes into the mind; letting the heart do the writing.

    Being heard, being understood, being successful. Wrestling with desire, ego, consciousness and mortality.

    Do you ever smile when the heart grabs the pen and starts tow write words, poetry, prose as if some form of exterior element is blessing you with such creativity, but the strongest sense that it is YOU?

    Wow and wow again, Robin! Multiple wows!!

    I am looking outside again and the sky has a gentle hue, albeit cloudy. But begging to be notices, and sending an invitation to walk the countryside.

    Robin, you are inspiring. Especially on a Monday morning when it became light so late.

    Thank you.

    Simon Lever (from across The Pond!)
    Championing Positivity, Empathy and Kindness

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