Anyone who has kept a diary can relate to the therapeutic usefulness of writing. Bridget Jones provides a comical example of these benefits whilst telling tales of heart ache embedded within the turmoil of daily life. Writing can also inspire art. Sylvia Plath’s Journals, kept during the last twelve years of her life, provide an insight into what became the basis for her work, including an extraordinary collection of deeply personal poetry.
Poet and artist, Hannah Barclay, shares with Sassy her views on writing from a personal and autobiographical approach. In between three of her own poems, Barclay discusses how writing has become a tool for understanding herself, the importance for open conversations, and the book which inspired thoughts on how powerful one’s psyche can be.
What role does poetry play in your life?
Poetry helps me to learn and process what is happening to me, around me. A linguistic expression of my feelings. It can act as a channel to translate knowledge from my subconscious, helping me understand what I may not be consciously aware of.
After recently coming out of a very poignant relationship, I have been reflecting on some of the poems I wrote at the very beginning of our meeting. They’re like a stream of subconscious thoughts, and by analysing them, some of the first poems predict what happened in the end. They amaze me because I can see that even before I really knew, my soul/psyche knew the dangers of the relationship. It is not to say that I should have listened and ended it before it began, but simply an observation into how incredibly intuitive our souls/psyches are, and how important it is to listen and let them speak.
The poems feel very personal, suggesting you’re comfortable with displaying these emotions. Does this come naturally, the ability to share your experiences?
Yes. I think it comes naturally, definitely more so the older I get and the more comfortable I become. And it comes naturally when I write because I’m doing that for myself. I think there can be a difference between sharing your experiences through conversation and through poetry or art. For me my poetry is much more raw, vulnerable, harsh.
Face to face I am generally comfortable discussing and sharing experiences as I think it’s a really important and special thing to do. It can be a gift. I think this has been emphasised by my experiences with family and how I’ve seen the importance of conversation and exploration as a tool for healing. I have had times where people have really inspired me through conversations. I think being able to display these emotions requires being honest and secure with yourself, because if you are then you shouldn’t feel you have anything to hide.
But there are moments when it’s not so easy, when I struggle to articulate how I feel. I might feel intimidated by the person and find myself fumbling for the words. And sometimes I still feel nervous about showing my feelings creatively.
You have talked about your soul/psyche pre warning you about decisions in your life. Can you expand on that?
I will try! It’s like I was saying in your first question, and something I have only really recognised and (consciously) learnt myself very recently…that our body/psyche/soul/intuition, whatever you want to call it, often knows before we consciously do. This feels true for me anyway.
I don’t fully understand it yet (if I ever will!), but reading Women who run with Wolves helped to dissect certain ideas. That within every woman is a wild and natural creature filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing. Reinforcing the idea that the more we believe in that and ourselves, the more we open ourselves up to knowing and recognising the beauty and power we have inside us.
Written in conversation between Hannah Barclay and Bethany Burgoyne.
Poems written by Hannah Barclay
Illustrations by Bethany Burgoyne