Girija Kaimal

From the intangible to the tangible: Transforming imagination to creative works

How does art-creativity-imagination increase our ability to adapt to changing conditions and to transform what no longer serves us? The answer to this question lies in the established evidence that imagination is uniquely human and is a way to transform our amorphous inner lives into meaningful form, be it in poetry, visual or performing arts. To see reflected or mirrored in the external world that which we have struggled to grapple with inside us is one of the many adaptive purposes of imagination. Sometimes, we cope by creating this external container for our vast emotional lives, while at other times, we simply recognize a visual or verbal metaphor that already exists in the world. Personally, I find that my expression manifests best in words and images. Poetry in particular helps me capture disappointment and grief. Visual images help me capture energy, anger, and joy. Both poetic woks and visual artworks are similar in that the imaginative process transforms raw emotions into concrete externalized works. The poem or the tangible visual art piece morphs from simply venting to holding the complexity of our inner lives in all the possibilities of a metaphor. 

An example of this adaptation and transformation is a poem I wrote about grief and loss a few years ago that helped to name and contain an undefined sadness. An associated visual artwork also is included.

Title: Grief

Grief, they say,

Is love with no place to go.

What do I do then?

With my grief for you?

Do I pack it in a box?

Or put in under the holiday tree?

Do I cook it into the dinner?

Serve it on grand platter?

Do I burn it?

And scatter the ashes into the air?

What should I do?

Tell me

What do I do with my love for you?

Do you have a box for me that you burned away?

What should I do? Tell me

What do I do with my love for you?

It sits with me with nowhere to go.

It sits in the words I write for you,

It sits as a gift to come to you.

But in the meanwhile,

What should I do?

Tell me

What do I do with my love for you?


Girija Kaimal is the Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies and Assistant Dean for Special Research Initiatives at Drexel University, and President of the American Art Therapy Association.

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