29 September 2023
As her new book is published, the much-loved poet discusses the healing power of poetry
What is the theme of Wild Hope?
Wild Hope is a daily bedside book designed to be opened at any page for a perspective shift, some comforting thoughts and a sprinkling of hope when things get hard. Hope is the key to all things in life. It’s the magic of humanity that we can’t truly explain but we know exists. Even if you have lost everything, you can still have hope - and that can be enough to carry on. A powerful thing indeed. The wild is because hope is not manufactured, it grows organically, everywhere. Hope lives within us all, we just have to remember how to help it grow.
How did you become a poet?
I’ve always liked poetry but I truly stumbled upon this career by chance. I started an online magazine for women and over the first year quickly realised that when I wrote quotes or verses, people really liked it. Something about poetry allows us to broach tough topics and share things
we normally may not. As the popularity grew, so did my confidence and I ditched my anonymity and went for it. The fact I now call myself a ‘poet’ will never not be a source of wonder in my life!
Who do you write your poems for?
Me. Quite simply. If it makes me cry, or laugh, or lifts the hairs on my arms then I know it has wings to find its tribe out there. The internet is a wonderful place to throw a paper plane and watch it soar, delivering its message far and wide. We are all so very similar underneath our careers/lives/whatever, that a commonality is never not found.
What does writing poetry mean for you?
It’s a mental health tool honestly, it keeps me constantly processing my thoughts and fears into something beautiful or relatable, nothing festers anymore. It all comes out. I’m passionate about poetry too, not the overly complicated and rule-bound kind but any soul-searching passages. The heart-pour, the right words in the right order at the right time…they matter.
How did you find your voice, and your themes?
I wrote anonymously at first which gave me space to be brave. I wrote whatever was on my mind at the time. Some big issues came to the fore fast, like grief and body acceptance. They were the first to be found, processed and shared but now I cover all manner of topics. Life! Living!
It’s not easy, whatever your path, words can really help flip the perspective on a day too dark or dreary. I don't think too deeply on ‘what’, I just write, hope and let it go.
How important is it to you to create relatable work?
I don’t know how not to. My writing is often described as simple and I’m so perfectly okay with that. For me it’s about conveying a message, not creating fancy over-stretched metaphors or requiring the reader to analyse to find the meaning. Here is my message; written in a hopefully
beautiful way that you will find impactful, simple.
What effect do you want your poems to have on your reader?
I want them to feel it in their gut. Like a ‘woah, this hit’. There should be tears, or goosebumps or an exhale of air they didn’t even realise they were holding, or a release of shoulders held far too tight to your neck. It should feel like something came in through your front door with its own
key and said, ‘honey, I’m home.’
Are there any particular poems that mean something special to you?
Yes, the ones I wrote for my teenage self in ‘I Wish I knew’. I was alone in my pain then and seeing it broached so openly these days give me joy. I hope that book wings its way to people like me who needed permission to exist just as they are.
How can poetry heal and help in dark times?
Firstly, it’s a way to begin the talk, when some topics are never open for discussion. And that brings light. And light brings growth and growth helps the healing. It’s not just words for art’s sake, it can save lives.
What are your top tips for people wanting to express themselves in poetry?
Write in a way that makes your inner-critic seethe. As though she can’t breathe for the audacity you have, to let go so boldly and act as though you are enough. Write to silence her and you will be close to the good stuff.
Wild Hope: Healing Words to Find Light on Dark Days by Donna Ashworth (Black & White Publishing) is out now
Are you interested in the healing power of writing? Jo Bissekar Barr looks at the positive effects of creative and expressive writing.