TIROC: Building Resilience Through Poetry

Hand holds a cutout of a brain with the word trauma, centered within a chalk outline of a head. San Jose Public Library logo.
This blog was written by SJPL Staff Member, Stephanie Budros.

April is National Poetry Month, which is the largest literary celebration in the world, honoring the integral role poets play in our culture. Poetry dates to prehistoric times, first with African hunting chants, then later with pyramid text. The oldest surviving epic poem, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” is from Mesopotamia during the 3rd millennium BCE and was written on clay tablets.

But what is a poem? According to Oxford Languages, a poem is “a literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm.” There are many types of poems: couplet, haiku, limerick, and sonnet, to name a few. And poetry is deeply connected to song lyrics; most of us can surely think of a song that resonates with us in a profound way, where listening to the melody and words heals us or at very least validates our feelings.

April is also Stress Awareness Month, which is quite fitting since many people use creative writing as a form of stress relief. I have written poetry for decades. I work through feelings about relationships, aging, and job stress. I write about grief and heartbreak. I muse about silly moments and fun surprises. There is something so satisfying about capturing the essence of a moment or a feeling through creative expression. It can be truly therapeutic.

So, let’s focus on poetry therapy for a moment. Poetry therapy is traced back to ancient times when religious leaders chanted poetry for the well-being of the tribe or individual. Today, it is practiced internationally by hundreds of professionals including educators, librarians, social workers, and psychologists. Poetry therapy is a powerful tool for self-expression and emotional exploration within a therapeutic context. While this form of treatment is not exclusive to youth, it can be especially beneficial to children and teens who have experienced trauma.

Poetry can provide comfort and boost moods during times of stress, trauma, and grief. It allows a safe space for someone to better understand, process, and express their emotions; this can lead to better self-regulation and building resiliency for those extra stressful moments in life, to help us get back up again. I hope that some of you have a love and appreciation for poetry, like I do. And I hope that this blog inspires those of you who are less familiar, to give poetry a try.

Read More: Writing Poetry for Young Ones

Read More: Writing Poetry for Older Ones

Read More Poetry

San Jose Public Library's Short Edition has a wide variety of poetry written by local San Jose and Bay Area residents. You can access this treasure trove of creativity by browsing our online collection. Feeling inspired? Submit your own work for our collection! Each year SJPL hosts a Spring Poetry Contest coinciding with National Poetry Month. Catch up with last year's winners and stay tuned for more coming soon!

TIROC Blog Series

This blog is part of a series that will focus on being trauma-informed and resilience-oriented as part of the Library's efforts to embrace the TIROC principles in our interactions with you and with ourselves.