How Writing Poetry Saved Me

Bijal A Shah
Mar 21, 2018 · 7 min read

After my transition to San Francisco from London, there were naturally many challenges as well as exciting moments awaiting.

I was 3 months pregnant when the move happened with a 14-month old toddler to look after whilst my husband and I house-hunted and attempted to ‘settle’ into temporary accommodation.

During this time, there were lots of highs as well as lows — the highs being beautiful weather, scenic places to explore, sumptuous Californian cuisine to enjoy, new friends to make and lots and lots of quality time with my 14 month old daughter (which I never got in London whilst working full time).

The lows were discovering how expensive everything was in Silicon Valley, no ability to fit in breaks whilst looking after my active, adorable daughter, everything was far and required a car (which after living in ‘very-walkable-London’ is painful) and of course, I missed my family and friends back home.

There were a real mix of emotions playing through my head. I felt that I needed something to give me an element of control, soothe my soul and help me feel calm. I had this surprising yearning to write and not to write just anything but to write poetry. Perhaps it was because I was reading lots of poetry at the time; some classic (William Wordsworth) and some more contemporary (Ben Okri, Rupi Kaur). I had found the poetry to be unbelievably insightful and powerful. I had the urge to express my feelings and my experience through poetry, releasing anxious energy that had pent up.

I took to paper and penned my first poem. The process set my creative juices flowing and the language, emotion and structure flowed. After I felt energised and in a strange way I had more clarity about how I was feeling/had felt.

Feeling refreshed, I could share this happier state of mind with my daughter, giving her the best of me. I wish I had discovered this process earlier. (Now I continue to write poetry and plan to publish some later this year.)

I would really recommend giving it a go if you are going through a transitional period in your life or simply wish to get some clarity over a difficult/challenging situation.

To inspire you, here are two poems — one on motherhood and another one that is a letter to my daughter. Also below is a list of great books on writing poetry. Happy reading!

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the paradox of motherhood by Bijal Shah

as you lie there sleeping

I hold onto these precious moments

a break

a moment to just breathe, reflect, smile

I hold my breath for you might awake

not much time left

to wash, to cook, to tidy

hoping to have some ‘me’ time left.

motherhood has changed me.

all control lost.

my life unpredictable

yet when you smile at me

when you look into my eyes

there is nowhere I would rather be.

I know the days crawl.

the years will fly.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

dear daughter by Bijal Shah

dear daughter

younger than two

you melt my heart

with your sweet smile

when you lie next to me

sleeping away

blowing tiny breaths

I am at peace, my heart smiling

let’s freeze this moment

so special, blessed am I

dreading the day you become your own

hope you will still come lie with me.

miss you already

knowing this window is limited

we cherish each moment

this time may pass in a blink

dear daughter

sleep well

dream sweetly

stay blessed

Hope you enjoyed reading the poems as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here is list of some great books to get you started with writing your own poetry.

25 Great Books on Writing Poetry

1. The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio

2. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

3. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

4. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn

5. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand

6. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser

7. The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry

8. Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio

9. Madness, Rack and Honey: Collected Lectures by Mary Ruefle

10. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirschfield

11. Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories by Maria Mazziotti Gillian

12. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

13. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver

14. Poem, Revised: 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions by Robert Hartwell Fiske

15. Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold

16. The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology by Edward Hirsch

17. Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield

18. Poetry: Tools & Techniques by John C. Goodman

19. Glitter in the Blood: A Poet’s Manifesto for Better, Braver Writing by Mindy Nettifee

20. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

21. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms by Ron Padgett

22. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont

23. Real Softistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft by Tong Hoagland

24. A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry by Annie Ridley and Crane Finch

25. Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan

Do share your writing and poems in the comment section below!

A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, life and mental health I launched Book Therapy as a form of non-conventional therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/book prescriptions based on your individual needs. Feel free to reach out to me at bijal@booktherapy.io or www.booktherapy.io.

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Bijal A Shah

Written by

Book therapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy - therapy using the power of literature. Email me @ bijal@booktherapy.io for a personalised reading list.