Why writing poetry is better than going to the gym

gympoemRead on to the end for an additional exercise!

  1. You haven’t been to the loo yet (the loo, loo, if you know what I mean) and feel your stomach going up and down and making loud noises and you’re all clogged up inside and have to stop running after 5 minutes for fear of exploding.
  2. You’re on the treadmill next to a really goodlooking guy strutting his stuff and after a certain amount of time you realise he’s been tindering all along. Just swiping them girls to the left. He then sees you. In the dream world, he’d look at you and see the girl he’d been looking for on his phone, but in the real world, he gets off the machine and goes elsewhere.
  3. You forget your card, and no one is bbehind the till. You wait 10 minutes and then decide to squeeze past the little iron gates at the entrance (hm… the gym is paying off after all, huh).
  4. You decide to take a short sauna after your hard workout, only to walk into the hot, small room filled with muscular (but very hairy!) men and have your towel fall off and then, of course, you trip over it. They didn’t seem to mind. Which was a plus. But I minded.
  5. – 100. All the times people ask you if you’re alright, and you say “Yes, yes I’m totally cool working it you know!” but then you see yourself in the mirror in the dressingrooms and realise why they asked you because you look like you’re about to die. And then you hate all the beautiful blonde thin people who seem to be going for it yet are not red at all and have the sexy sweaty look down. (HOW DO THEY DO IT?)

I’ve stopped going to the gym. I write poetry now (or attempt to). It’s so much better. You know why? Poet Jane Hirshfield once suggested that one reason to write a poem is “to flush from the deep thickets of the self some thought, feeling, comprehension, question, music, you didn’t know was in you, or in the world.” One could say this is like going to gym. Because it entails self-discipline, determination. But what exercise lacks, is creativity. It is really only training the self to be better, but in a highly mechanical way. Sure, it causes endorphins to rise and thus our levels of happiness to grow. But so what. There’s no innovation. No feeling, except exhaustion. She says of other forms of writing—scientific papers, political analysis, most journalism— thay they attempt to capture and comprehend something known. This is the same for exercise. Poetry then, is a release of something previously unknown. You write to invite that, to make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable. I try to write as much as possible, because it makes me feel alive; productive; worthy of living. However, I must note, that I do still exercise. Those endorphins must keep on flowing. But I run outside. In nature if possible, because nature is different, the opposite of a gym.

A marvellous author, Roberson Davies, once wrote that: “The recognition of oneself as a part of nature, and reliance on natural things, is disappearing for hundreds of millions of people who do not know that anything is being lost. I am not digging into such things because I think the old ways are necessarily better than the new ways, but I think there may be some of the old ways that we would be wise to look into before all knowledge of them disappears from the earth—the knowledge and the kind of thinking that lay behind it.” This rings so true to me. It seems so much is disappearing in this day and age of the Internet. People don’t run in the woods. They have a little TV screen in front of their hometrainer feigning the woods.

Wildness in nature is irrational in such a way that is comforting. Without it I think you’ll stray from your instinct and your ability to construe goodness from what’s around you. This is why the outside is important. And you can’t write poetry without influence of the oustide. At least I can’t. So at this, I will invite you to, as earlier suggested, make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable:

Pick a piece of writing (from a short story, novel or poem) you love. Write down why you love it, and then for the next hour, write something inspired by it. It needn’t necessarily look like it, but it can. Enjoy, rejoice, and magnetize your mind. And afterwards, go for a run in the park. If you’d like to look at my creation, find below the links. The first is the original (Richard Siken’s Saying Your Names) and the second is my version (You). [1]

  1. http://yupnet.org/siken/2008/03/19/saying-your-names/
  2. http://isadorajane.tumblr.com/post/115297792272/you


[1] All credit goes to Jane Lewty, who gave some of us priviliged students this exercise in her Creative Writing Class. Thank you!


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s