How to Combat Loneliness with Poetry
Mental health issues were on the rise in the United States before the global pandemic, but with the coronavirus separating families and friends and keeping them in quarantine, loneliness is a problem millions of people are facing, along with depression and anxiety. In a recent TIME article, loneliness expert Dr. Carla Perissinotto differentiates between loneliness and aloneness: “Social isolation is an objective indicator of how much contact somebody has with other people, whereas loneliness is the subjective feeling of isolation.” She makes it clear that just because you are alone doesn’t mean you’re automatically lonely. Loneliness can happen even when you’re around people.
If you’re feeling lonely, there are many healthy ways to cope with the feeling without ignoring it. Poetry is a healing balm on a lonely soul. It’s also a great way to embrace the loneliness without minimizing your feelings. Using poetry to combat loneliness can help you see the feeling as a therapeutic tool for deeper healing.
EMBRACE THE LONELINESS WITH A POEM
In her groundbreaking best-selling book, When Things Fall Apart, Buddhist meditator Pema Chödrön asks readers to embrace negative feelings without running away from them. She believes loneliness and depression have a lot to teach us and are tools for transformation and healing. In the chapter “Six Kinds of Loneliness,” she provides wisdom that only comes from observing that feeling: “Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.”
We can use meditation and poetry to observe loneliness. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and notice what you’re feeling. Describe it using the five senses. Use concrete nouns and active verbs. After freewriting for a while, take more time to meditate, and then return to the loneliness. Notice it again. Observe the part of your body where the loneliness arises. Search for metaphors or similes to describe the loneliness while you are freewriting. Then return to the poem another time, and craft what you have found in your meditative discovery. This is not only a form of self-care, it’s an offering of love to your loneliness.
READ POETRY COLLECTIONS ABOUT LONELINESS
If you’re feeling depleted of inspiration because you’re feeling lonely, reading about other poets and their experiences with loneliness will not only make you feel less alone in your pain, but it will also get your creative juices flowing. A Crowded Loneliness by r.h. Sin is a good place to start because the poems were inspired by the isolation brought on by the coronavirus, and they speak directly to the reader. In his intro to the book, r.h. Sin writes the following: “If you’re reading this now, I hope you remember that each time you’ve faced any obstacle, you have always found a way to survive, to get through it . . .You will continue to find ways to overcome and to rise once more, triumphant and stronger than before.”
HOST AN INSTAGRAM LIVE POETRY READING
After you’ve embraced your loneliness and read some poetry collections, you may want to return to a community of poets where you can share what you wrote when you were in solitude. Apps and social media are an effective way to combat loneliness during coronavirus times. While experts say technology is not a substitute for in-person communication, it’s a good remedy for the physical distancing we have to maintain during these times.
A fun way to receive social support and reduce loneliness is to host an Instagram Live poetry reading with your friends. You are engaging in a meaningful way with others, and at the same time, you’re also building your audience. More than anything, though, it’s exciting to interact with your friends and watch the little hearts flying on the screen as you do a live reading of your work.
Even though it’s usually considered a negative emotion, loneliness can be a productive feeling for creating poetry. It’s in solitude and aloneness that great works of art have been written. Loneliness can also induce a state of longing that can inspire you to write a romantic poem. It’s a creative tool and an opportunity for healing because loneliness will eventually lead you to the realization that you always have the company of the unique person on this planet that is you.