Poetry has the power to defeat depression

By Lydia Theon Ware i

Contributing Columnist

Lydia Theon Ware i has published poetry in “MUSE,” the Riverside City College literary magazine. Her other works include “Awe: Love Letters to the Most High” and “17 Letters for Jesus and Me: Love Letters to the Most High.” (Courtesy of Lydia Theon Ware i)

One of my biggest dreams is to be a guest on “The Daily Show” to talk about my books, my wishes and my ideas. But instead I watch YouTube. I want to write my dreams, my visions and my personal mission statement, but I’m scrolling the beast, keeping my finger on my mouse seeking the next 15- to 30-minute distraction, my next “reading,” my next fix. But my true love, writing poetry, needs me.

How do I fulfill my dream of being on “The Daily Show?”

My answer, by being prolific and mastering my craft; by writing other genres, by reading. But I do none of these things. I have no accountability to myself so I watch YouTube and I grow bored after hours of not finding the right mix of news, laughter, storyline and time spent away from depressing thoughts. But sometimes, the newsfeed is off and a poem comes. Where once writer’s block was filled with blank pages and hot tea, there is now a buzzing background of little electronic boxes of splashy graphics and enticing titles. But the desire to write doesn’t die, no matter how many hours are spent “treading water on the net.”

What is this desire to write, and why is it still here?

This desire found me in Ontario, California, over 35 years ago. One poem, “Daydreaming,” was recognized by Cal State San Bernardino as an honorable mention among hundreds of entries. A seventh-grade English teacher submitted my sixth-grade poem. Even then, I wasn’t prolific. But ever since I walked onto that stage in too-tight black pants and I shook the hand of someone who was probably a professor, I have wanted to place pen to paper. Not for the recognition, but more for the magic of creating something out of nothing.

When a poem comes it is a baby miracle that washes off the clinging depression and loneliness. I have a depression addiction. I take medicine, but my need to lull into a low frequency of “woe is me and why me?” is borderline obsession. There is a poem in there somewhere. I want to write a poem that will rock the masses and heal my depression. A poem that will impress Shonda Rimes so much that she’ll want to do a telenovela about my work. A poem that will obliterate the need to scroll ever again.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “2 Then the LORD replied, ‘Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the vision awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.’”

One of my visions is to have thousands of writers come to my future “Awe; Love Letter to the Most High” workshops and to write 1,000,000,000 “Love Letters to Jesus,” a 15-year endeavor that has yet to have its first gathering. There is a poem in this as well. Depression blankets this vision and puts it on hold. I want there to be poetry prescriptions instead of pills and talk therapy.

This past year I have been trying to stay awake. The current news and the anxiety of COVID-19 is a multi-colored fever dream that burns the retinas and calls for burrowing under the covers and saying good night even in midmorning. But poetry breaks up the nightmare. When I have really dark thoughts, I turn to poems by Rudy Francisco and Maya Angelou, and the music of Jon Batiste and Kirk Franklin.

My poetry needs me. I write because I have to quell the desire to give up and give in to the sadness. As I live here fighting for joy, one bop at a time, I wonder what constant happiness feels like. Does anyone feel it?

When I was 15, I was going to be a great actor. And then, as I struggled in my mid-thirties to finish college and conquer my demons, I gave up theater. But writing stayed with me. Writing is a friend that doesn’t betray or disappoint. I am going to write a poem that turns into a workbook, that turns into a play, that turns my depression into the past.

I will begin with the lines:

At 15, I was deemed a poet, / at 30 I was deemed an outcast, / and at 52, I am a dreamer who wants to dance / but my legs rebel like bludgeoned blues / I carry the Holy Spirit in my fingers and Jesus on my lips / sometimes i carry a Swiss pocket knife to the desert well / seeking to gulp the water of His grace / but I haven’t carved the cup deep enough / but even so, He gives me a spot to rest in / I don’t drown / I pursue the comma and the next noun /…

Depression vs poetry. Poetry will always win. And my visions will triumph.

Lydia Theon Ware i has published poetry in MUSE, the Riverside City College literary magazine. Her latest work includes “Awe; Love Letters to the Most High,” a praise compilation of poetry and love letters to Jesus, and “17 Letters for Jesus and Me: A Love Guidebook.”

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