Poetry from the Head or the Heart

Poetry from the head arises from thoughts and other mental activities. Poetry from the heart comes from felt emotion, which manifests in bodily sensation. But both borrow from each other. Head poetry arouses feeling, which drives the feeling of desire for which to write. Heart poetry arouses mental activity, as we engage our brain and mind in the act of writing.

The act of writing poetry may occur with or without awareness. Awareness of what motivates our writing, awareness of what arises in the head and heart, awareness of the emotions we are experiencing, awareness of the felt sensations arising in the body, awareness of our memories, awareness of our relationship to the inner and outer.

Some poets get stuck in the head and some get stuck in the heart. I believe that truly gifted poets straddle both forms of poetry, transcending the mundane by exploring the worlds they create through both vehicles. The head opens up one kind of world and the heart opens up another.

Our awareness of the worlds within and the worlds without, create the opportunity for complete awareness. And it is from here that we create the most powerful forms of poetry. Poems that tell stories about how we percieve reality and who we are as human beings. With an awareness of the worlds within and the worlds without, we can choose what to sense and how close or far to sense it. Imagine for example, the world upon the surface of a leaf, versus the surface of an alien planet versus the surface of Earth after a Nazi Blitzkrieg and the feelings which that each panaorama arouses in our heart and in our bodies. Imagine for example, a relationship between two serial killers who track other serial killers, the relationship between an adopted child who discovers that his mother is a nun, the relationship between a small child and her extraterrestrial friend (who others think of as an imaginary friend), the relationship betwen a First Nations man who is being visited by his ancestors, the relationship between the last man on the moon and his species and the feelings that each relationship (panorama) evokes in our heart and in our bodies. No matter what we are writing about, we have the opportunity to visit the inner and outer on any scale that we wish. We can zoom in and zoom out. The key is awareness.

Great poetry is aroused by great feeling and arouses great feeling. But it is also aroused by great images and arouses great images. Great poetry lifts us through the senses – all 5 of them. For most of us, great poetry is filled with spectacular images that evoke intense feeling.

But all poetry starts with choice. The choice to pick up the pen or not. The choice to write from head or heart or both. The choice to continue in the face of despair and downright crappy writing. The choice to be aware. The choice to observe. The choice to feel. The choice to reflect. The choice to be present. The choice to express.

We live in a world of creation and destruction. And we can choose how to use our words and our poems to create or destroy. There is no right or wrong. Head and heart both offer something of value. But it is up to us to learn how to use the power that each offers. When we understand teh power contained in head and heart, than we can become creators and destroyers. For words shape the world. And poetry has always had the power to a light a candle into the darkness of the past, present and future.