A poem is worth more than a billion pixels

I had never felt so empowered. I had expressed myself, healed myself, entertained myself, recorded myself and I had changed the way I felt. All through the simple act of writing a poem.

I hadn’t intended to write a poem indeed nothing had been further from my mind because I was on an archaeological field trip. In Ireland last summer.

You could tell it was summer because the trees were green and the kids were out of school but the cold wind and rain made it feel like winter, or possibly like summer, in Patagonia.


The guide was telling us that this was a prehistoric burial site that predated the pyramids. The stones were at awkward angles, some piled on top of one another. They looked grey, wet and slippery. Four thousand years of intermittent rain does that to stones.

Frankly, it was boring and I was in a bad mood anyway. I was irritable and frustrated. This was not the way that I wanted to spend my time.

As the guide finished and people began moving towards the bus, I opened my phone for the inevitable selfie. Others were doing the same. It was then that I had my special moment.
Why, I asked myself, do I need another selfie? I will probably never look at it again and there isn’t much that would make a good photograph here. I already have hundreds of selfies on my phone. I do not need another.

Then the thought came to me – do something different –  why not try writing a poem instead. Suddenly I became interested and within a few minutes I had scribbled a few lines that I later tidied up a bit, over a coffee. And suddenly I had a poem. And I realised I was feeling better – happy because I had created something rather than just pressed a button on my phone; happy that I had expressed my feelings and occupied my mind, happy that I had a personal record of an event in my life, however small.

Steve and the sacred place

Here’s the poem. It might not win any competitions but I like it.

Irish Tomb Raider

A prehistoric heritage site;
It predated the pyramids.

I held one of the ancient stones in my hand,
It felt quite ordinary.
When I left, it came with me –
I was scared I might be noticed but I wasn’t.

I plan to replace it one day
With the rock
That I stole from the
Valley of the Kings, in Egypt
In 2004.

It won’t exactly even the score
But it might raise some interesting questions –

Archaeology should be
More exciting….

That day in Ireland I learnt several lessons; that it feels good to do new things, that you don’t have to rely on technology to occupy your mind, and, most importantly, that you can change the way you are feeling. Once you decide to be proactive and to challenge the way you feel and make changes, you discover a new kind of power, a power that comes from the knowledge that you are no longer a rudderless ship, driven helplessly through life at the mercy of your feelings; that once again you have the choice of how to run your life. And that in itself is a great feeling.

I would like to receive weekly articles in my inbox

Chris Burn

Therapist and author of two books, Poetry Changes Lives and his most recent one, The Fun We Had.

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