How Writing Poetry Can Help You Take The Gun Out Of Your Mouth

Why Poetry Can Boost Your Overall Sense of Wellness And Keep You From Regularly Calling The Suicide Hotline

I used the initial lockdown period to write poetry. I’d come down with the Covid-19 and wasn’t feeling so hot, so I figured might as well scribble away. I guess it’s therapeutic.

There are other ways you can boost your mood of course: exercise, watching a movie, joining a cult where they make you chant “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama,” forty-seven times in a row while pretending you’re enjoying it. But poetry seemed most organic for me, most invigorating, most connected to who I really am. (Side Note: I once considered selling Watchtower Pamphlets door-to-door but then returned to poetry, a tougher sell, since I’m a hardcore masochist).

The poems I wrote while ill in March have been collected in my third poetry book, “Notes From The Bonfire.” I mentioned writing this book was therapeutic. It was more than that. As the title of this post suggests, it got me to take the gun out of my mouth.

This is a metaphorical gun, of course, as I’m ill-equipped to handle a firearm (a sad state of affairs given that I’m currently in Alabama and everyone wants to go hog hunting). But, metaphorical or not, it was in my mouth in March, and I put it down. I gave up the maudlin thoughts…stopped writing and rewriting the same damn suicide note…stopped planning my own funeral in elaborate detail.

How did poetry get me there?

Easy. I was in a rut; spiritually, emotionally, physically. Poetry bypassed all that. It was a bridge to a new realm, a chance to explore the far expanses of my imagination.

Admittedly, some of the poems in my latest book are better than others. Some perhaps were too self-indulgent or preachy. But because I gave myself permission to experiment, didn’t care too much what others thought, I was, in a way, already ahead of the game. For I was out of my lousy rut.

Poetry maybe even saved me. Sounds hoity-toity. But people claim they were saved by acts of gods. Or dolphins. Why couldn’t I have been saved by overrated mad scribblings that, given my handwriting, strongly resembled hieroglyphics?

I’d love if you could check out “Notes From The Bonfire.” Additionally, I’d love if you focused on some sort of outlet (provided you don’t do so already). Any outlet. Tango dancing. Painting. Hopping around on your left foot while singing “Werewolves Of London.”

Doesn’t matter what it is. These are crazy times. The key element is that you find some activity that energizes you enough to get the gun out your mouth.

(Side Note: Whenever I hear “Werewolves Of London,” I think of Tom Cruise dancing madly around the pool table in “The Color Of Money,” an excellent metaphor for the poetic process: self-isolating, enriching, freewheeling, and, above all, based entirely on instinct).

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Matt Nagin

Matt Nagin is a writer, comedian, actor, and educator. His latest book, “Do Not Feed The Clown,” is available on Amazon. More at mattnagin.com.