Poetry improves lives: a guest post Paul Vaughan

This is a guest post, a courtesy of fellow poet and writer Paul Vaughan, where he shares his personal experience on why he writes poetry and how that impacts his life:

Why do I write poetry?

Four years ago I had just gone through a second divorce, started a new job after several years of struggling with depression, was living in temporary lodged accommodation while practicalities were sorted out, and trying to be a dad at arm’s length. This, I thought, was not what I had in mind….

I’d like to say things turned around but they didn’t, not then. I spent three years scraping around being at something of a loss. I no longer knew where I fitted into the world around me. I was not even sure I knew who I was any more.

I had written the odd poem before then, but only on a whim. Friends encouraged me to perhaps do it more as some felt I had a talent for writing, so a year ago I started contributing to a social poetry website, then eventually started writing a blog, “Edge of the Bellcurve”. It’s a ramshackle mix of poems, personal perspectives/philosophy and general musings on poetry itself.

I wanted to write to get at what I feel, rather than what I think I should feel. To say what I mean, rather than what I think I should say. Poetry is an expression of authenticity, widely drawn. If you write poetry there is nowhere to hide, and I wanted that, to be reconciled to myself. My blog is not anonymous because I very much wanted to be visibly attached to what I wrote. I think often I write poems about simple things, about love, loss, sex, death, and the ways that people often get disconnected from themselves, from their truth, out of fear.

The jury is out as far as whether what I write is any good or not, but I would write it anyway. Having started, I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Not everyone “gets it”. I’m pretty sure some people are appalled by it, in fact, and one person accidentally sent me a text intended for someone else declaring that I was a “knob” for writing and publicly posting poetry. On the flip-side, I have also made new connections with other people, and started performing my poetry at open mic evenings, where I can both perform and listen to the poetry of others, which has been great. I see poetry as a “conversational” experience, an interplay with other poets.  I have even a couple of print magazines accept poems for publication and wangled a 10 minute slot on the fringe stage of a local poetry festival. This is all just icing on the cake though, compared to the actual exercise of creativity and the personal freedom that emerges from that.

I really enjoy the idea of sharing and promoting the work and events of others too, so have now set up an online poetry magazine. I am no longer quite sure what I used to do before!

The encouragement of others is fantastically important when you start out, as writing poetry can be an emotional, sometimes anxious process (or at least it sometimes is for me). I cannot really write a piece like this without mentioning my friend Steve “without whom this would not have been possible….”

As a sample poem I wrote this one about the experience of performing open mic poetry, and it’s more of a performance than a “page” poem. I used to do a lot of poetry recital as a youngster, but performing your own poems is a very different experience.
Is this thing working?
I’ve never done this thing before,
taken the mike, addressed the floor…
Hang on – that rhymed!– is this just spiel?
Or is this poetry for real?
Is this thing working?
Is it switched on?
Is there a knack?
Can you still hear me at the back?
You’ve let me come and stand up here,
while you sip your pints of beer,
you’ve got no clue what I might say,
if my words might go astray….
I may have a dark agenda,
here to spread my propaganda.
Or am I here to point the finger.
turn this into Jerry Springer….
my wife is sleeping with that man.
Why trust me?
Give me this space?
I could be crazed and madly pace….
Why trust anyone to speak,
why listen to a heart that beats,
why open minds to songs and prayers,
why dance the dance or wrestle bears,
why ever haunt that secret place,
why ever flaunt your human face.…
Is this thing working?
Is there a…crack?
Can you still hear me?
Can you still hear me at the back?
Paul lives in Yorkshire, England with his cat Rosie, where he works, writes, recites to anyone daft enough to listen, sometimes scrawls poems on pavements in chalk when he is drunk, and avoids eating custard at all costs. Unless it’s in a vanilla slice. He has recently started an online poetry magazine https://algebraofowls.com/

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