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13th July 2015

Poetry for Self-Healing: Advice from Luka Lesson

By Luka Lesson

Since I have started writing there have been many points along the way where my writing is what has helped me through the tough times, here are a few points of humble advice for people who find themselves using poetry for self-healing:
1. Know when your writing is functioning as catharsis (cleansing) and when it is just re-ingraining your painful experience. There is a thin line - it is very important to know when to stop and write a new, better story for yourself.
2. Please seek other avenues of assistance. We think in words. Our self-talk is what often gets us the most down. So to spend all day wrestling with more words to make word-art is not always the best thing to do when you're in a tough spot. Alongside writing find something wordless that gets you out of your head and back into physical aspects of life.
3. Don't use your audience as your primary source of counselling - get professional help, in Australia there are many free options. Being constantly applauded for your trauma can create a relationship between approval and pain that will get you to the same spot so many poets have before - the more you suffer, the more write about it, the more people love your poems. And before you know it you're a stereotype. 
4. Don't be afraid to just be healthy. It doesn't mean you're 'not real', 'not down for the cause' or that you aren't 'deep' or a 'good poet' anymore. It means you give a shit about yourself, that despite all the shit, you can smile and appreciate the little things. Which is possibly the most defiant thing you can do in a world that is constantly telling us we aren't enough. Learning to let myself feel fulfilled has been the hardest challenge for me, there are so many reasons not to be. I'm still learning to ignore them. 
5. Don't throw a family member, ex-lover, fellow poet or anyone else you know under a bus by writing a scathing poem about them, mentioning their name, in the heat of the moment. Relationships change and I've realised they are much more important than 3 minutes spent on stage with your ego. Of course you can write about a bad experience, a terrible school teacher, a bully, a rapist, a racist and so on. But to name someone publicly and place them forever in one of these categories is very different than sharing the story of your survival. Also, you should probably find a way to write the letter to the person in question and have it out with them directly. It might make for a better outcome for everyone. 
6. You can write all you want, but you don't have to share anything. Be as angry, vicious, hateful, rude, vulnerable or wrong as you want in your own time - this will help you, but choose what you share wisely.
7. Please feel free to reject my advice at will and carve your own path. I have experience only with my own context and issues and have only learned these things through trial and error. So please, be prepared to make mistakes and do your own thing. 
Having said that, I do I hope this helps someone out there,


Luka Lesson is a Red Room commissioned poet.

He is a Greek-Australian writer cut from a different cloth. Projects that he has been involved with include Counterpoint,Tennant Creek Writers’ Camp, and Red Room Education workshops at Elizabeth Macarthur High School and Macquarie Fields High School... read more »