The Healing Power of Poetry
With Christian J. Collier
As a young girl, I wrote a lot of poetry. It was a place where I could connect deeply with myself, my feelings, as well as my light. It was a place where I always felt a sense of joy and peace. As I got older, I got away from this "lost" gift, that was never really "lost" – it was just nicely tucked away, and put in a place that was not as easy to access. My creativity and my love of the arts was my deepest source of joy, and was really my strongest ally and asset as to who I am. Unfortunately, the older I got, the more others' demands of me and others' projections and judgments of what I needed to be doing with my life, and who I needed to be doing it with, only got louder and louder, and the "little girl" in me, increasingly grew silent; as my divine and innate gifts were getting more and more buried.
The past few years for me, have been extremely tough in a variety of ways, and it was during this time, that this "lost" gift that I remembered and knew on a deep level, was available to me, whenever I was ready to embrace it. I decided that I needed to start writing poetry again... ultimately, to get re-connected with myself, my unique talents, and my joy. I began writing poems daily, as the poetry seemed to flow out of me, and my notebook of poems continues to blossom and expand.
Gradually what was happening as I was writing more and more poems, a deep healing seemed to come over me. My happiness and joy, as well as connecting back with my true and authentic self, began a journey into me wanting to understand more about the "gift" of poetry – as it is truly a gift, which I am extremely grateful for. I was doing a google search one morning on "healing" and "poetry" and an amazing Ted Talk came up in the search – a Ted Talk entitled The Healing Power of Poetry by Christian J. Collier. What the heck? I thought... LOL. Someone else seemed to connect these two words healing and poetry, and this talk was done back in April of 2016 (please see below reference link – definitely worth a watch and listen).
Immediately I felt like I wanted to reach out to Christian, as I watched his Ted Talk a few times. I looked at his amazing website, and all the things he has done, and continues to do. Now this would definitely be an amazing guy to interview, I thought...
I was not at all surprised at how gracious Christian was when I reached out to him, and as we spent time doing this interview. I can not say enough positive things about this man. Not only is he eloquent and gifted in his use of words, but he is also such a kind , compassionate, as well as heart centered man. This interview was a total joy for me, and it is my hope that more and more people will embrace poetry and start writing, reading, and sharing poetry – as it is truly a magnificently creative and under appreciated art form.
Hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
My interview with Christian J. Collier:
Me: So are you from a family of creative individuals? Are there artists in your family?
Christian: My father and siblings have the ability to draw. For a long time, I wanted to write and illustrate comic books professionally when I was younger. In addition to that, when I was in seventh grade, I got really into hip-hop and free-styling with people. In my freshman year in high school, I started to embrace poetry. Poetry is really a perfect medium for me. It provided a creative way to express myself, learn more about who I was and wanted to be, and the craft itself. There is a "mystery" and a "magic" to poetry. Having already been fascinated with language, I was able to familiarize myself with a number of poetic texts and writers.
My take away: Christian is extremely gifted. The way he speaks so eloquently, even during our interview, is fascinating. His use of words, and the way he describes the "mystery" and "magic" that poetry is infused with, is profound. Every poem I write, I experience on a deep level of both "mystery" and "magic" – these are the perfect words to describe it.
Me: You are super eloquent, as well as deep in your perspectives. How do you think this "mystery" and "magic" add to any healing aspects of poetry writing?
Christian: There is a cathartic aspect to writing. I think that whenever we finish a poem, somewhere within us, we know that that could very well be the last one we’ll write. There’s no real formula attached to the process of generating and molding these things. However, for most of us, the well doesn’t run dry, and that, in itself, is magical. The actor Rainn Wilson once said that, for artists, there really is no difference in the making of one’s art and the act of prayer, which also speaks to a certain level of magic, mystery, and divinity.
My take away: How profound is this! Most artists I know are very spiritual, and have a deep ability to be present with others, as well as with their specific medium of art. Since I am not that familiar with Rainn Wilson, I wanted to see what other wisdom I could find, to add to this idea of " art as prayer” and how mediums of art are in their essence – spiritual in nature.
Me: Let's chat about all of your service, and how you are working with teens in your workshops. How amazing that you are sharing your gifts, talents, and knowledge of poetry to the younger generation.
Christian: For the past four years, I have taught a workshop for teens. The first year was in 2015 and the pilot program was a part of a larger program that had four components. The following year, I had the chance to run the workshop from top to bottom on my own, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Typically, the ages of the students range from 13-18, and the sessions last between 7-8 weeks over the summer. We meet for one hour a week, and there are ten spots for potential students each year. There is an application process with questions that help me get to know each student before they walk through the door for the first session, too.
My take away: Having been very blessed and gifted early on in all the arts – poetry, music, drawing; I understand and appreciate the vital importance of the arts for the young. I played concert piano, had perfect pitch, won art contests, and loved reading and writing poetry. What Christian is doing is not just a blessing for these teens, but also for the entire community. The arts are so under appreciated still in our society, and as someone who knows this first hand, I wish there were more individuals like Christian so passionate about teaching and directing our younger generation with their gifts and talents. Our talented youth really need mentors who are genuine, authentic, and purposeful in their intention to guide, teach, and be a support for them.
Me: So we touched on the "spiritual " nature of poetry and the arts earlier. Are you very religious? Spiritual?
Christian: I am more "spiritual" than "religious." I consider religion to be the institution of belief, and spirituality is that which cannot be defined, but can be inherently felt within, and I definitely strive for the latter more so than the former. For artists, we tend to be in constant conversation with the past, present, and future, which is interesting. Three distinct entities, almost like the Holy Trinity. We live in the present moment, and stay grounded in the present while also learning and drawing from the past, with the future in mind.
My take away: I love Christian's perspective on the past, present, and future.
Me: You have an amazing ability to be in the present moment. With all the social media, phones, "noise" all around us, do you think most are struggling to be in the present and enjoy the moment?
Christian: I don’t think boredom is really a "thing" anymore. With so much access to different devices, whenever someone starts feeling bored or is in a situation where they feel uncomfortable socially, they can pull out a phone or laptop, and the feeling is largely alleviated. Also, I feel like there is a medication of some sort that exists to remedy almost every emotion we have, and they’re generally pretty accessible. If you’re feeling sad, there’s a pill for that. If you’re feeling something you don’t want to feel, there’s a pill to counteract that. As a result, I think a number of people lack the ability to process a range of emotions. I definitely think there’s something beneficial about allowing for boredom and stillness where one can just sit with uncomfortable emotions and really process what they’re experiencing and why. In my experience, a good bit of the time, that’s where the lesson we need to learn resides.
My take away: I am not a big fan of all the devices. I think there needs to be balance, and people should not be so connected to their phones 24/7. Getting outside in nature, enjoying good conversations with others, as well as doing regular hobbies and activities that are fun and joyful seem to be overlooked by many in our society. I agree with Christian, that there is a time and place where one needs to just "be," and process emotions. "Doing" all the time, and avoiding uncomfortable emotions, seem to be the norm these days.
Me: I talk a lot about genuine "connection” with others, and how it seems like as a society in general, people are moving away from truly connecting with one another in an authentic and compassionate manner. What are your thoughts on this?
Christian: In my opinion, I don't think genuine interaction is at the forefront where it used to be, and people are getting used to this.
My take away: I agree that in our society today, genuine interaction is not at the forefront for most, whether in business, personal, social, etc... It is very sad and unfortunate. What is positive though, is that there are those individuals where authenticity, compassion, openheartedness, as well as true and deep connections indeed are at the forefront and a priority; and for these people , they are either finding it, or it is finding them.
Me: I talk much about ROI in business being also about energy. It is not only about numbers and spreadsheets. When you are making important business decisions, how do you decide what to say "yes " to and what to say "no" to? do you have a type of "criteria?"
Christian: The older I get, the more I value reciprocity. I also understand the importance of standards. Standards are not meant to be lowered or they cease being standards. One can always add on to standards, but they should never be lowered. I’m also very cognizant of my time and energy. If either or both aren’t right in a situation, I walk away. I maintain these things at all times. I keep my intentions close, and I am very protective of that space.
My take away: This is terrific advice for anyone! Standards!
Me: So what awesome things do you have on the horizon for the remainder of this year?
Christian: This coming weekend on September 20th from 6-7:30, I’ll be premiering my docuseries. It’s called The Plug Poetry Project and is one part of an arts initiative I launched earlier this year. Tickets are free and it is at The Edney Innovation Center. For those who cannot make it, it will also be available online soon. Also, on October 5th, The Plug Poetry Project with host Jericho Brown for a poetry workshop and featured reading also at The Edney. I’m really excited about both of these! Beyond that, I’m laboring to whip two manuscripts into shape to submit for some really cool contests that are coming up.
This was one of the most amazing interviews I have done. Christian is such a joy and a talent! I appreciate him taking the time out of his day to do this interview. Please be sure to check out more about Christian at his website: http://www.christianjcollier.com/about
Also, please make sure you check out his inspiring Ted Talk mentioned above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCUKT4CIuuI