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Using Poetry as a Memory Keeper

By Diana Raab July 28, 2022 Mindset

For as long as I can remember, I have been writing poetry. As a little girl, I adored books with poems in them and particularly loved rhyming poetry. As a teenager, I wrote love letters to my boyfriends and often ended them with “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you,” and then I’d sign my name.

Also, I loved reading the poet Rod McKuen, who had a way of describing the ordinary in the most extraordinary ways.

In fact, that’s the type I write now – poems that look at the ordinary in an extraordinary way that also shares a universal truth that readers can relate to.

Keeping Memories with the Help of Poetry

Poetry is the voice of the soul. Poets pay attention and have a special way of capturing moments, and in doing so, they have a tendency to slow down time. They help us see a slice of the world in a way we might not have observed it before. Poetry gives us a chance to zoom in on life.

I’m particularly interested in reading and writing confessional poetry that tells a story. For this reason, I believe that all of my poems are sacred. I view them poems as memory keepers. When starting to write a poem, I begin with an image, feeling, or memory, and see where the poem will take me. I usually don’t have a plan for my poem. It organically decides where it wants to take me.

Read a Lot if You Want to Write Well

To be a good poet, it’s important to read a lot of poetry. Writing and reading poetry can be a springboard to growth, healing, and transformation. I have a number of favorite poets.

Some of the poets who have inspired me over the years include Mary Oliver, Khalil Gibran, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, and Pablo Neruda. Some of their collections have themes running through each book and other collections do not.

Each of my five poetry books has a theme. My latest book, An Imaginary Affair: Poems Whispered to Neruda, was just released on July 8th. Each poem in the collection is in response to one of Neruda’s poems, most of which are about love.

Here’s a poem I’d love to share with you, which illustrates how poetry keeps our memories

Ode to Memory

From the moment I rise in the morning
how I remember everything
where my slippers sleep,
how to get downstairs,
where to find my dog
and how to brew my coffee.
I love to remember
my first coffee in a Parisian café
at age sixteen with grandpa—
strong espresso and sugar cube,
and how the server was so kind.
I will always remember
not what people do for me,
nor what they say,
but how they make me feel.
I will always remember my first love,
how and where it happened,
the sound of his name,
and how he held me,
and how scared
we were when blood gushed from me
onto his parents’ bed,
them at movie theater,
and how embarrassed I was,
yet how close it made us.
I’ll always remember
the feeling of being loved
in that way – for the very first time.

Poetry prompt: Consider writing a poem tapping into your own memories or one particular blissful memory that stands out for you.

Have you attempted to write poetry? Was it about a feeling, a story, a memory? What was the result? Did you share it with someone?

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The Author

Diana Raab, PhD, is memoirist, blogger, speaker, and award-winning author of 10 books, and numerous articles. She often writes and speaks on writing for healing and transformation. Her latest books are Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life and Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal. Explore her books and Conversation Cards for Meaningful Storytelling.

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