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The Veracity to Be Found In Poetry

by Suzette Richards

Poetry has many applications – not only the obvious pleasure of expressing oneself through a medium that many hold in awe.

‘The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious. What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied.’ This quote first appears in a 1940 journal article by Philip R Lehrman, and (wrongly?) attributed to Sigmund Freud.

Poetry is an excellent tool to dispel depression. Recent studies have debunked a long-held belief that depression is largely due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, but this is not the platform to discuss details that fall in the realm of medical science. From personal experience, however, I have benefitted from collecting material on a daily basis for my poetry by consciously concentrating on nature and pleasant anecdotes. At first, I recorded it in a journal at the end of the day – reflecting on the positive scenarios I had come across during the preceding 24 hours. This often included dreams, and later extended to daydreams, especially those with an uplifting slant. It did not take very long for me to snap out of the habit of focusing on the negative as the positive thoughts supplanted the previous mindset.

‘Poetry does not belong to those who write it, but to those who need it.’ ~Pablo Neruda

Poetry is a valuable tool in trauma counselling as it can be cathartic and might bring about closure to unresolved issues. A classic example is where the decorated WWII veteran, the Texan, Audie Murphy, suffered nightmares because of the horrors he had witnessed, and wrote poetry to cope with the trauma, for example, The Crosses Grow on Anzio. However, it is generally not recommended to share these scribbling on social media as the readers could find it disturbing or even offensive, and the backlash it engenders might add to the angst already being experienced. A recent experience on a social media website had me thinking along these lines: How much should we share with the public? Are readers sympathetic to the inner turmoil that a poet might be experiencing? The writer in question was pulled up short about the content of the poem shared on that public platform. Yes, I agreed with the general consensus that the poem was much too personal in nature. The author of the piece defended himself by stating that his therapist had recommended that he tried his hand at writing poetry in order to work through his debilitating experiences. Many of us had felt that it should not have been shared with the public at large as none of us were in a position to verify the veracity of the claims made in the poem. Should we be content to write poetry for our eyes only (or only to be shared with our therapist)? I am not convinced that by exposing a possible shared experience, which is traumatic in nature, with even a select few will bring about healing – not for the poet or the readers. Similar to keeping a journal, it does not automatically follow that it should result in a published memoir. Even if we employed the poetic device ‘persona’, we need to tread lightly and be cognisant of our audience’s sensibilities.

‘To be a master of metaphor is a sign of genius.’ ~Aristotle

In all fairness, we can’t read or write poetry of only a certain trope and expect to grow as poets. Many aspects of poems are sugar-coated in metaphor, and we often need to tease out the truth by delving into the deeper meaning of certain lines, or even the full poem. For example, from the poem about the afterlife and man’s immortality, And death shall have no dominion, by Dylan Thomas: ‘Though they be mad and dead as nails, / Heads of the characters hammer through daisies; / Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, / And death shall have no dominion.’ The title of this poem was inspired by St Paul’s epistle to the Romans (6:9). I had incorporated two lines from this poem in my poem, Redamancy Lament (see the full poem under my poems listed here on, but had employed poetic licence in order to conform to the design specifications of the poetic form, Suzette Prime; as well as the final two lines in my poem, derived from the untitled sonnet by e.e. cummings, ‘i carry your heart with me (i carry it in’. The conclusion of my aforementioned poem:

this is the sacred truth everyone should know

                death wouldn’t be victorious

                 though lovers be lost love shan’t

                      death shall have no dominion


as I mourn

redamancy is not a prerequisite

     I carry your heart

        I carry it in my heart


Poets can do whatever they like with a poem, but they have no control over how readers would perceive or react to it. Once it is published, the poem belongs to the audience and they sometimes take away some inexplicable points from your poems, for example, my Suzette sonnet, Ceraunophiliac,* was included in an anthology of 11 poems in an online publication honouring poems about hailstones. (The full poem can also be found listed among my poetry here on PoetrySoup.) 



In awe, I welcome Thor with utmost glee.

The powerful celestial force set free

among the hills and over the coarse scree.

The winds that whip and slink—the hailstones loudly clink.

Flashes segue to link—I quell the urge to blink ...


It is your prerogative to agree or disagree with my philosophy. At the end of the day, we write poetry as an expression of our inner thoughts, and often, to give a voice to our emotions. The purpose of poetry is to speak to the mind, the heart, and the spirit. How much we are prepared to give away of our innermost psyche, and when to be reticent, depends upon each individual. However, one needs to bear in mind that everyone is not prepared for the unvarnished truth. One of the most challenging aspects of being a poet is to be unapologetically frank. Wendell Berry said it best in his poem, Do not be Ashamed. Extract:

It is only condor that is aloof from them,

only an inward clarity, unashamed,

that they cannot reach. Be ready.


ceraunophilia: (n) A fondness (loving) for thunder and lightning and finding them intensely beautiful.

Book: Shattered Sighs