CREATIVE ARTIST: How Poetry Helps Our Mental Health

When spoken word poet, Jessie Giles, announced that she was leaving Facebook, I hunted her down with a WHY? Here is a passionate poet who always has something of value to say. A beautiful young woman with the unique ability to show up society with the delicacy of a calligraphy pen, JG speaks candidly about the crux of uncomfortable emotions, the importance of staying socially connected, and the power of the pen to empower our mental health.

BFA: Why did you decide to leave Facebook?

JG: I’ve been a pretty intense Facebook user. I was feeling disconnected. I could feel that I was going to FB when I felt lonely or needed an interaction rather than seek out ‘real life’ engagement. I read The Machine Stops by Ian Forster (1909). The story moved me. It’s about people who live in rooms and communicate through a machine. They talk about a fear of experience – No! (JG exclaims) Don’t fear experience! That’s what’s good!

I’m interested in the idea that we can fear feeling uncomfortable so we use things to block experience but when you block being uncomfortable you also don’t feel. When I finished the book I thought I don’t want to be on Facebook anymore. And its been really good getting off.

Facebook serves so many purposes, for so many people. Its a great tool. But I personally became so caught up in it’s psychological web, that I forgot my psyche. I became lost in it’s ability to allow my desire for ‘likes’ to overcome my desire for self-acceptance and self-love. (Quote from JG’s blog, Creative Narratives. Read more about her post-Facebook findings here.)

BFA: Why do you feel your emotional world and connection to experience is worth protecting?

JG: I’ve always been a sensitive person and that’s been a struggle to make that okay within myself; to keep balanced and maintain a safety around my sensitivity. I’ve grown up with a sense that openness, vulnerability and being seen is a courage more than a weakness. During a trip to Thailand where I studied Muay Thai, I gave myself the opportunity to push myself to extremes. I didn’t have to bury feelings to front up to work or school, so I would experience sadness and allow myself to feel its intensity and really explore it. Then feel angry about stuff and push through it and break it down. I realised, Wow! We aren’t that comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. There are so many mechanisms we put in place to stop those feelings. I began to see how sadness and anger served a purpose.

1_Jessie Giles

BFA: How have you used writing to manage your emotions and do they drive you to write?

JG: It’s definitely what drives me to write. I’ve got so many journals and diaries. For me, writing is cathartic. A lot of it will be pen to paper, verbal diarrhoea, kept secret, structureless, much like a debrief. Sometimes after the catharsis I’ll step away from it and think I like certain lines from it and then I separate myself from what’s on the page. Then I think that may be helpful to other people and I want to share it or it sparks something in me and helps me move through something.

BFA: So you’re helping yourself while at the same time see that some parts have a life of their own and can be shared with others, but it’s primarily sustaining for you?

JG: Yes.

BFA: I get the sense that being seen in your vulnerability is something you want to see if it inspires change or helps someone. It demonstrates your social consciousness.

JG: Definitely.

For me I write a piece for performance and if it doesn’t move me enough to experience feeling then it’s not worth me performing because if I can’t feel it then the audience won’t get engaged. When I first started performing I felt strange about performing pieces that would make people feel uncomfortable. But I thought, no, that’s okay. So long as I do that safely or offer a space for people where they can engage with me and for it to be okay to be emotionally moving; to feel uncomfortable, to spark something.

With my poetry I want to be able to make people feel, then perhaps they will begin to think about something more deeply.

2_Jessie Giles

BFA: Going straight to the heart! So through your creative writing (poetry and blogging) you’ve dealt with issues of self-esteem, disconnection and isolation, depression, anger, passion, feelings of discomfort and addressed indigenous and social issues. It’s really inspiring that you’ve felt compelled to share this with others. It highlights aspects of life and being human too, and invites people to experience their own vulnerability. It seems like you’re sold on the potential of language to evoke and open hearts. I doubt you’ll ever stop writing!

JG: Ultimately I write for me. I suppose I am somebody that wants to support others and so knowing what I do of how supportive writing is for me, I naturally want to encourage others to do that. I would prefer to support other people through writing than solely being a performance poet.

BFA: What is it about putting something on the page that helps?

JG: In one sense it’s that feeling of taking something within, outside. If I can get it out of my head when it’s jumbled or messy and hard to process, on the page I can see it more objectively. I try not to take on board self-judgement too much because it really is for me. I found the Artists Way to be really helpful to stop judging myself. The purpose is purging; I can write for the sake of just writing. That then makes you more comfortable to write creatively.

Jessie Giles writes 2 must-read blog called Dust for the Dancers, and Creative Narratives / Cultivating empathetic understanding through the use of stories, poems, images and narratives. She also performs around Melbourne and at festivals. I highly recommend witnessing her live when her poetry really comes to life. This year Jessie graduates from her psychology degree.

At the end of our interview, JG left me with some poignant words that lingered long after our chat. She said:

I suppose, just the idea of the importance of feeling, coming from a place of nervousness and opening myself up to other people but then going through an experience of those emotions. Just allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable, and actually notice the difference that it makes both for me and for other people around me, when you let your guards down.

Allowing yourself to be scared … 

It can be too much or overwhelming

And witness other people open up and be vulnerable.

Empathy, towards my self and others.

It’s a beautiful process.

There are days when I want to shake people to say, ‘Just let your f**** guard down, open up and be cool! It’s ok! I’ll cuddle you if I need to!’

Spoken like a true poet Jessie Giles: honest, probing, awakening.

Love always, The Babyfacedassassin

 The Babyfacedassassin! Your friendship is valued!

 

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3 Responses to “CREATIVE ARTIST: How Poetry Helps Our Mental Health”

  1. Sarah K Reece November 16, 2013 7:16 am #

    Beautiful interview, very thought provoking.

  2. Jacky T November 16, 2013 7:32 pm #

    Yes to all of this. A true community leader.

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  1. I was interviewed by the Babyfacedassassin!!! | Creative Narratives - November 15, 2013

    […] We spoke about why I have left Facebook, uncomfortable emotions, the importance of experience and the use of poetry and spoken word performance for self and others. To check out the interview, click here. […]

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