Particularly when it’s hard to write, as it has been for me for a while, it can be really useful to think about why we do it. I imagine this “reasons to write” series could go on for some time! Today’s instalment comes to us courtesy of Nikki Grimes: ‘Poems’.

Isn’t it a great opening description, of how she can rarely come away from memories ‘whole/ or untroubled’? (It puts me in mind of a line by another (very different) writer I prize, Anne Lamott, who talks about how her mind is a dangerous neighbourhood and she shouldn’t go in there alone.) Grimes’ idea of writing being a way of processing or assessing experience really resonates with me: a bit like the way that talking things over with a friend can help you know what you feel, only with writing the friend is the pen and paper, or your self, or your imagined reader, or whoever else you think you write for. There’s such a sense of discovery in this experience: writing—and indeed reading—as interrogation of experience and self.

I also love the imagery of the ‘pain’ producing ‘priceless gems’. Carbon under pressure equals diamond. Not that pain automatically generates learning, of course. It’s all about how you respond; and writing can be a part of that.

2 thoughts on “reasons to write part 2”
  1. Thanks for this one Lucy. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about my appreciation of poems that communicate pain or are themselves painful or unsettling to read, as well as the poems that celebrate joy or peace-in-the-moment. This poem recognises their place, as you do.

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