When Times Are Tough, There's Still Poetry
written by rachel cooper
“I had no one to help me, but T.S. Eliot helped me. So when people say that poetry is a luxury or an option, or for the educated middle class, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”
—Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
In case you haven’t heard, the holidays are upon us. For many the holidays are a time of reunion, reflection, love, and joy. It’s easy to think about the holidays and to picture a family, perfectly framed in a bay window, lit in a warm glow, laughing, a furry friend curled up by the fireplace, snow falling.
But the holidays don’t look that way for everyone. And poetry doesn’t always look like love and warmth and joy. The beauty of poetry is that it helps us celebrate, but it also helps us mourn, express anger or frustration, and it can bring us comfort in the difficult times. For many the holidays are tough times. For many that picture-perfect image of the happy family through the window feels far off, false, or painful.
Before the 2017 holiday season I experienced a traumatic breakup. A planner by nature, I had spent months fantasizing about enjoying the holidays with my partner and all of the Hallmark movie things we would do, and I honestly felt crushed. This time of love and joy and celebration so quickly seemed dark and meaningless—and then I turned to poetry—Flux by Orion Carloto to be specific.
Flux is a story of heartbreak that explores the hurt, confusion, anger, sadness, and ultimate healing after someone we love leaves us, and I found within those pages a finding place, as Jeanette Winterson puts it. I found relatability and a space where I was not lost but found because I saw I wasn’t alone, and that I wasn’t the only one in the world who felt this way. And who doesn’t want to feel a little less alone in this world?
I’m not saying that poetry is the end-all, be-all cure. I’m not saying that poetry is the perfect medicine, but I am saying that it’s a place to turn—a tough language for a tough life. So whether you’re celebrating or afraid or lost or found this holiday season, know that there’s a poem out there for you, and that you’re not alone. We hope you find your finding place.