Lisa C. KruegerReturn to Lisa' Home Page


Ars Poetica and the Talking Cure: Poetry, Therapy, & the Quest to Create

Article in Writer's Chronicle (link)

Will Spring Ever Come?

bare winter tree against the sky

Stanley Kunitz once said, “Poets are born to dare.” Such a bold statement requires consideration. Kunitz was not being provocative; he was offering his life’s truth. Daring, when looked at closely, reflects fundamental risk-taking. We challenge the odds when we dare by claiming faith in something larger than the immediate. Dares allow the manifestation of dreams—for those who take the leap.

Writing poetry feels like a dare. Putting words to page in order to make art, to allow the creative spirit to have its way, requires risk. Poets may learn the craft of writing, the finesse of employing established structure or musical patterning or linguistic concision to develop and refine a poem’s presentation. But the core of a poem, its very essence, comes from a place no class can master: a larger place in ourselves. Call it the unconscious. Call it the divine. Call it the great unknown. It is something more vast than the sea—than anything we can observe. We poets, when we do our best work, enter the water. We may drown. Yet we can swim. We can sail.

I think all people were born to dare—to risk what we know about ourselves by venturing into the unknown. We were made to explore, to discover. As young children, filled with curiosity and desire, we toddle toward what we don’t understand. How quickly we learn to pull back, to stay safe, to settle in security. Choosing to dare somehow begins to seem foolish or religious, as though only the naïve or the devout can live in risk.

What would it be like to dare oneself every day? For me, when I take the chance, life feels less predictable. Less certain. More mysterious. More filled with potential.

Will spring ever come? For most of us, this has been the winter of the unexpected. Some of us have battled artic storms, others the parched heat of a drought. No one, even the meteorologists, can make safe assumptions about what will come next. When was spring, after all? How many springs have we had? How many more, in our lives, will we know?

Kunitz wrote about the dare:

What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
            and it’s done.

If this is my one season, I want to risk. I want to act. I don’t want the buried life. I want the dance.

photo of boats on the horizon at sunset


Light may be both wave and particle—or rather, light’s particles may move like waves, if I follow the physics correctly. This time of year, light seems almost without motion, resting on the world until early darkness falls. One of the many things I cherish about Los Angeles is the way light here feels unique, almost exquisite. Some people claim the sun’s rays are extra white here, others describe a South-of-France yellow.

The light in my hometown creates personal waves for me. The familiar can change in light of a day, a week, a season. Today I drove through the Tunnel of Trees—a neighborhood street lined with camphor trees—and felt surprised to notice houses, hedges, people I had never seen. Maybe the coming winter solstice alters the world’s appearance. Noticing the changes, I felt different. “That time of year in me,” Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 73. How little it takes, really, to render new awareness.

Poetry is its own form of light. Poems gather words toward a bounty, an opening, a widening of experience, what William Merwin called “Ripeness of the lucid air.” As a therapist and a poet, I wish to offer this new website as a place of light, a place for lucidity. The word poetry stems from the Greek poeima, something composed or created. The word therapy derives from the Greek therapeia, meaning healing or treatment of a disease by a curative process. Looking more closely, the etymology of healing is literally “to make whole.” We therapists and poets are makers. Perhaps our creations are no more than a kind of bearing witness, claiming a stake in the world through word. Perhaps poetry is its own form of salvation. Adrienne Rich once wrote:

And this is not theoretical:
A poem with calipers to hold a heart
So it will want to go on beating.

I hope that you will find something of value here – perhaps through the light of poems, meditations, art and photographs I will post periodically. Please contact me if you would like to be on my mailing list. Please contact me if you would like to share your views on anything I have posted here. I wish you joy, peace, and light.