Art Therapy

“I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility . . .” –William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)

There are two things in my life that have gone well together for a number of years: writing poetry and going to therapy. I have maintained since high school that my art and mental health battles have greatly defined my identity and place in the world.

Both my poetry and depression have roots in emotion, which is why I took a liking to Wordsworth’s quote about “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”

I see parallels between these activities. In the calmness and safety of a therapy session, I am given tools to deal with my emotions. The session provides moments for me to recall emotions of varying degrees; my poetry, meanwhile, serves as a vehicle for my thoughts and feelings as they’re expressed within the confines of the text.

To take it a step further: the time and place of a session is the container (the event). What we discuss and how I feel about it are the contents (the-tending-to-the-event). The structure and layout of a poem is the container (the form). What I’m saying and how it’s expressed are the contents (the-tending-to-the-form).

At the end of most sessions, I share a recent poem with my therapist. This has far-reaching practical applications. It’s beneficial for my therapist and for me.

Each informs the other: my poems help in my treatment and my treatment sessions help me strengthen my poetry. My therapist serves as a guide to living well and writing well. He’s my interpreter and editor for both life events and my artistic choices. He can tell from a poem my overall mood in the days surrounding its composition. This can be pleasing one time and troubling the next. (Ironically, what I leave out or try to avoid—in both therapy and writing—is significant regardless of my noticing it.)

I see no immediate end to the journey that is my therapy. And as long as I have my wits about me, I’ll continue writing poetry. Wherever my feelings take me, I’ll submit myself to the process—and have plenty to think about as I carry on.


Corrections And Clarifications

I have just edited my post from February 4, originally entitled “How To Speak American,” to reflect its updated title: “A Guy’s Guide To Speaking American.” Upon closer inspection, the poem is geared toward the perspective of certain American males, and thus was closed to the experience of American women.

In no way am I putting down America and traditional American values. The poem is intended to reflect a macho attitude that many American males often express. It’s a battle I’ve been fighting since high school, when I was once suspended for responding aggressively to a male classmate who questioned my sexual orientation through the use of a hurtful label. America is a great country; I want only to highlight that some Americans need an attitude adjustment.

Finally, I have also just edited my post from yesterday, entitled “Not-So Gun Shy.” In the original post I included a non sequitur about abortion and a woman’s right to choose in a piece focusing on gun control. As a rhetorical device, the reference was dubious, and it was brought to my attention that its inclusion weakened my argument and served merely to inflame people on the other side of the debate. I do stand by my opinions on the subject of gun control, however; I simply want to present a sound argument. I respect others’ viewpoints but take pride in my beliefs, however controversial they might appear.

Not-So Gun Shy

Last week the White House released a photo of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David back in August 2012. The photo hasn’t received much press beyond various gun enthusiasts coming out to criticize the president’s shooting stance. One expert called Obama “a novice.”

Are we supposed to think our president more masculine—more American—because he skeet shoots? Leaders aren’t required to follow the majority, especially when the majority is wrong, and yet here’s the leader of the free world pandering to gun nuts. Isn’t it manlier and more American to stand up against mass stupidity?

Besides, are gun rights advocates who see the photo magically going to think: “Oh, he skeet shoots, so he’s to be trusted—he’s not against our way of life—let’s go ahead and support gun control legislation”? No chance.

People on both sides of the gun control debate should find the photo odd; if anything, it’s disingenuous, feels forced, and induces cries of “political stunt.”

It’s a crime that we maintain such a strong, logic-resistant culture of guns in America. In trying to reduce gun-related violence in America, President Obama inadvertently contributed to the madness expressed by gun nuts.

A Guy’s Guide To Speaking American


Forget your accent first. Give up
your allegiance to all foreign flags
and tongues. You must be here
legally, not an alien from Mars
or Mexico stealing social security.
Be a man. If you enjoy a good pistol,
texting while driving and protesting
pesky taxes, you’re almost there. Must distrust
all communists, especially the president.
Keep a safe distance from Europe
and queens who threaten your manhood.
Act natural, like you were born here. Pull
yourself up by bootstraps, looking to no one
for help. Forgo ethnicity. Believe in freedom
but deny outsiders the right to be free.
Above all, ignore poems that don’t express
the status quo or faith in God and the military
or elicit questions of any kind. Whatever
you do, don’t you ever, ever tread on me.

c b snoad
2-4-13 & 2-9-13